Refreshment the Hard Way: Alcoholic Seltzer and Kombucha

During the pandemic, more than a few of us tried our hands at a bit of amateur baking. With bars and restaurants shuttered, many of us decided to become our own bartenders as well. Alongside all that sourdough, having a drink at home became a common activity during lockdowns. Though some of us might have added a truly great Manhattan to our repertoire, others of us are looking to find new flavors without becoming a DIY mixologist. 

The Rise of Hard Seltzers

The timing of the COVID-19 pandemic was auspicious for one beverage category in particular: hard seltzers. These clear, fizzy drinks had been gaining popularity for the last several years, and as we headed into our homes in early 2020, we brought these fruity, lightly alcoholic beverages with us. 

Now that lockdowns are largely over and people are returning to restaurants and bars, makers of seltzers once again have to compete with the skills of trained craft cocktail makers. This means that competing in an increasingly crowded segment of the market will demand both quality ingredients and unique flavors to hold customers’ interests. 

Hard seltzers may have paved the way for many consumers to step away from beer, but aside from lower calorie counts, there is little to tout in the way of health credentials for these bubbly alternatives. To provide adventurous flavor-seekers with the healthier alternatives they are looking for, we need to turn our attention to kombuchas.

Hard Kombucha’s Increasing Popularity

The overall trend toward healthier eating and weight loss that has pervaded many sectors of the American culinary landscape over the last few years. This trend has only been intensified by concerns about overall health and immune system function during the pandemic.

This sharper focus on the health credentials of what we eat and drink has brought increased interest into alternative alcohols such as hard kombuchas. With their production of probiotics and amino acids during fermentation, kombuchas have been gaining popularity with consumers looking for a product that packs more nutritional punch than a regular beer. Add on the fact that “booch” as it is sometimes called, is gluten-free, and you have a drink that checks all the boxes for many of today’s consumers. 

One of the things that makes this growing market interesting to producers and consumers alike is the broad array of flavors that can be produced. You can, of course, make a fruited beer, but the overall flavor profile is going to be more limited and not likely to appeal to a wide audience. Without the malty, hoppy overtones found in beer, kombuchas present wide opportunities to get new fruit flavors and combinations into customers’ hands. There is some appeal to a seasonal berry weiss, but flavors like grapefruit, kiwi, and passion fruit are more likely to find a home in a bubbly seltzer or hard kombucha than a beer.  

The Essence of Good Flavor

For many beverage producers, the allure of hard seltzer lies in its supposed ease of production, but here looks can be deceiving. While it is far easier to produce a hard seltzer than a beer, the devil is truly in the details. As the novelty wears off in this growing category, flavor is going to be an increasingly powerful differentiating factor.

No matter what you are making, the quality of your flavorings will be a large part of why your product rises or falls. Few customers are looking for the true neutral flavor of the alcohol they drink, but stacking artificial flavorings or colorants on that base can leave a literal bad taste in your customers’ mouths. What is more, the benefit brought about by the clean-label appeal of natural fruit flavorings can be a strong differentiator for people moving away from traditional alcohols based on the health credentials of alternative alcohols. 

At FruitSmart, we know the value of starting with the highest quality ingredients. Getting the naturally appealing flavors, colors, and nutrients of ripe fruit into your products is no easy task, especially with many fruit varieties being difficult to process and store well outside of their short growing season. Processing fruit to produce powerful, delectable concentrates and essences takes dedication and attention to detail.

When making a hard seltzer or kombucha, there is little to hide behind when it comes to flavor. Failing to nail the right mixture of essences or concentrates in your recipe can leave your customers reaching for juices to add, or for a competing product. This not only means getting your recipe and your production process dialed in the first time, but it means maintaining consistency with every batch you produce. 

FruitSmart concentrates are the perfect solution whether you are looking to add new flavors to your line or just need to refine an existing offering. Our concentrates are stable, easy to transport and store, and work extremely well in a wide variety of hard seltzers, cocktail mixes, and kombuchas. 

Quality can only get you so far if you don’t have variety, though, and here FruitSmart excels as well. Our extensive product list can allow you to experiment with new flavors and combinations to create new seasonal varieties and mainstays that will keep your customers coming back for more. If you are ready to begin working with the high quality fruit juices, concentrates, and essences we provide at FruitSmart, contact us today to get started.

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