- Boston Beer plans to refresh its Truly brand to sustain consumer interest in hard seltzer while growing its share in the beverage’s “crowded category.”
- The alcohol maker plans to redesign Truly’s packaging to clearly communicate a more refreshing taste profile with the addition of real fruit juice, refine its limited-release strategy and relaunch Truly Vodka Seltzer as Truly Vodka Soda.
- After years of triple-digit growth, hard seltzer has seen sales slow considerably as consumers turn to other alcoholic drinks, or eliminate booze altogether. Few companies have been hit as hard as Boston Beer, which was among the biggest beneficiaries of the hard seltzer trend.
After a rough period, Boston Beer appears to finally be pressing the reset button on its Truly brand and preparing for a different marketplace for the once-sizzling booze offering.
"Truly helped establish hard seltzer as we know it today, but we recognize the segment is evolving for the drinker of tomorrow," Dave Burwick, Boston Beer’s CEO, said in a statement. "As hard seltzer enters the post-hype era, we are strategically investing in new marketing and packaging to keep Truly top of mind and remind drinkers why they came to the category in the first place."
The company warned of ongoing challenges to Truly this week. During Boston Beer’s earnings on Thursday when it reported an unexpected quarterly loss, the company said depletions — which measure the number of cases sold by distributors to retailers — of Truly declined again during the period.
While hard seltzer is unlikely to ever go away, it's given ground up to other popular drinks, such as ready-to-drink cocktails. Hard seltzer is also facing the consequences of its own success.
As Burwick hinted in his comment, the hard seltzer space is extremely crowded. One of the criticisms of hard seltzer is that there are too many choices — with some companies having multiple brands — a problem that has sowed confusion for both consumers and retailers.
In overhauling Truly, Boston Beer is changing its packaging to make it stand out on shelves and adding attributes on the label, such as the addition of real fruit juice, to attract the buyer. It’s also incorporating descriptions that better-set taste expectations, such as "lightly flavored" for things like Berry, Citrus and Tropical, or "bolder flavor" for Lemonade, Margarita-Style and Punch.
It's also changing how it goes about introducing new products. After three years of bold, novel flavors, the brand will shift its focus back to its lightly flavored core and introduce rotating trimester seasonals that are lightly flavored. A more measured innovation schedule — similar to how PepsiCo and Coca-Cola release special flavors of their signature colas — will keep the brand fresh and address the consumer's need for variety while not overwhelming the buyer with a groundswell of choice.
Finally, the decision to rebrand the Truly Vodka Seltzer as Truly Vodka Soda allows the ready-to-drink beverage to continue benefiting from the market recognition of Truly while distancing itself a bit from its ties to seltzer.
"The road to return Truly to growth in 2023 is paved with learning from 2022 and a drinker-first strategy," Burwick said. "With the right tools in place, we're confident in a Truly turnaround and share gains in the back half of the year."