Texas' favorite mineral water is entering the hard seltzer market. Topo Chico will produce a boozy offshoot, Coca-Cola announced.
The brief statement doesn't offer any details on flavors, but the company did reveal the product will arrive in Latin America "later this year." Its U.S. debut will likely occur sometime in 2021.
That Coca-Cola would utilize Topo Chico to get into the hard seltzer market shouldn't come as a surprise. Led by White Claw and Truly, the category grew more than 200-percent in 2019, according to data compiled by the IWSR, which tracks global sales of beer, wine, and spirits. The surge in demand has triggered a flood of new entrants into the market. Global beverage brand Anheuser-Busch InBev now produces three different brands of seltzer: Bud Light, Natural Light, and Social Club.
White Claw proved so popular in 2019 that it experienced a shortage where bars and restaurants couldn't get enough to meet the demand. Consumers like the seltzers because they're easy to drink. Each can typically has less than 5-percent alcohol-by-volume and only contains around a hundred calories.
How will Topo Chico fare in such a competitive marketplace? CultureMap turned to veteran Houston bartender Chris Frankel for insight. He thinks Topo's reputation may allow it to penetrate segments of the market that have resisted the trend.
"Topo is an interesting brand because even though it's now a Coca-Cola subsidiary, it's popularity in bars comes from hipster cred," Frankel says. "A lot of bars that try to have that cred have shied away from carrying seltzers, because they're those are [perceived as] trendy. We'll see who picks up Topo as the first or only seltzer on the bar menu."
While he's intrigued at the prospect, Frankel, who has created White Claw-based cocktails, thinks that the Topo seltzer will have to offer something different to capture people's attention.
"Personally, I'll buy a case, but as crowded as the seltzer market is, they need to do something interesting with flavors or branding for me to want to stock it in a bar," he adds. "Price could be a factor, since seltzers have all gotten noticeably more expensive since last summer's White Claw boom."