“We look for stuff you don’t see in every roadside place,” Ms. Stuckey said.
Certain classics — rubber alligators and coonskin caps — remain popular, as do Mexican blankets and Baja jackets.
“Jesus stuff sells,” Ms. Stuckey said. “We brought in walking sticks recently, and we blew through them.” Less popular? “License plate signs — they are really cute, but they are not selling,” she said. “State merch doesn’t turn as well. That stuff is collecting dust. Except for Texas. Texans love their Texas merch.”
Then there is a plan to extend Stuckey’s turf by selling candy through outlets like Food Lion, TravelCenters of America and food brokers. There was even a seasonal run of a Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll beer in partnership with an Atlanta-area brewery.
“That’s part of our strategy to expand the brand, and I think collaborations are the path to scale,” Ms. Stuckey said.
Ultimately, the goal is to leverage road-trip allure to drive candy sales, use candy profits to increase manufacturing and, perhaps, turn Stuckey’s into the top-of-mind pecan brand, like Planters is for peanuts or Diamond for almonds. There might even be a handful of Stuckey’s destination superstores.
For now, Stephanie Stuckey puts in the miles and spreads the gospel of road tripping, finding joy even when the trip leads to an Arkansas Stuckey’s with a hole in the roof.
“Here’s the interesting thing — this was the moment when I realized this company is going to make it,” she said. “Because even with a hole in the roof, there were people in there. And I checked, and the store was profitable. If a Stuckey’s with a hole in the roof can be profitable, the chain can be profitable.”
Stefan Fritsche, who runs a centuries-old German brewery in Neuzelle, near the Polish border, has seen his natural gas bill jump a startling 400 percent over the past year. His electricity bill has increased 300 percent. And he’s paying more for barley than ever before.
But the soaring inflation for energy and grains in the wake of the Ukraine war is no match for the biggest challenge facing Mr. Fritsche’s brewery, Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle, and others like it across Germany: a severe shortage of beer bottles.
The problem is “unprecedented,” Mr. Fritsche said. “The price of bottles has exploded.”
The issue is not so much a lack of bottles. Germany’s roughly 1,500 breweries have up to four billion returnable glass bottles in circulation — about 48 for every man, woman and child.
recycling, it comes with one major problem: getting people to return their empties.
Dragging a crate — or several — of empty glass bottles back to a store can be a hassle, even if it means getting back the deposit fee. So people tend to let them stack up, in the basements of their homes or on the balconies of their apartments, biding their time until they are running out of either space or spare cash.
“It is deadly for small brewers,” Mr. Fritsche said. The brewery he runs sells 80 percent of its beer in bottles. (In 2003, a recycling law was expanded to focus on reducing waste in the beverage industry, meaning most beer sold for the domestic market is in returnable bottles, not cans.)
annual survey by Kirin, the Japanese brewer. (The United States ranked 17th.) But on the whole, Germans are cutting back. Since the Federal Statistics Office began keeping records in 1993 — a year after Mr. Fritsche’s family took over the brewery in Neuzelle — national consumption of beer has dropped nearly 24 percent, as people embrace a wider diversity of soft drinks.
Lockdowns surrounding the coronavirus over the past two years also contributed to the trend, as bars remained closed and sporting and cultural events were canceled.
The difficult environment makes management of the breweries all the more important. Mr. Fritsche said he had relied for decades on a combination of tradition and creativity.
A willingness to push the boundaries and think around the corner is essential to surviving in a tougher business environment, he said. For example, the brewery has a bottle of its signature product, Schwarzer Abt, or Black Abbot, that has been blessed by Pope Francis. The bottle is now dipped into each fresh batch of Schwarzer Abt.
What helps, too, is taking a long view of the history that comes with running a business founded in 1589, the events that it has witnessed and withstood over time.
“Nazis, Communists, government takeovers — in the past, we’ve had just about everything here,” Mr. Fritsche said. “And we have survived it all. We will get through this as well.”
June 6 (Reuters) – “Sorry, that was the last bottle of Czech beer we had,” said a waiter at a central Moscow restaurant, a month after Russia sent troops into Ukraine and the West imposed sweeping sanctions.
More than 100 days into what Russia calls a special military operation in Ukraine, foreign alcohol is still available in Moscow pubs, but the once ample reserves are dwindling.
“Some pubs accumulated large stocks when it all started. But, as far as I know, there have been no new deliveries ordered and confirmed after Feb. 24,” said Alexander Skripkin, who manages two bars in Moscow.
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Many foreign companies including leading Western brewer in the country Carlsberg (CARLb.CO), Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR) and Heineken(HEIN.AS), have suspended sales in Russia and shipping trade has plummeted.
That haspressured the economy and affected the habits of Russians used to a lavish selection of foreign-made alcohol.
“The beer situation is very cheerless,” said Anton, a 36-year-old IT expert who works for a state financial organisation in Moscow.
“Not to mention Paulaner, Pilsner Urquell and other tasty stuff, I’m not at all confident if Russian beer is here to stay. There are problems not only with beer imports but even with imports of hops,” he added.
Russian breweries depend heavily on imports of raw materials, such as hops.
“Complications with sending money to suppliers in Europe and America, as well as the disruption of supply chains, are now the two most difficult issues,” Russia’s association of beer producers said, citing Beer Resource, one of Russia’s largest distributors of raw materials for breweries.
In early March, Carlsberg, AB Inbev and Heineken halted the production and sale of their flagship beers in the country and they have since said they will sell their businesses there. read more
The world’s biggest foreign container lines – including the top three MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM – have temporarily suspended cargo shipments to and from Russia, while European Union countries sharing borders with Russia and Belarus have barred cargo vehicles registered in those countries from entering.
“There is no Guinness any longer and it won’t return, at least for now,” a bartender at the White Hart, a large English-style pub in central Moscow next to the central bank, said. It used to sell the stout for 690 roubles ($10.83) per pint.
Diageo (DGE.L), which makes Smirnoff vodka and Guinness, began its own distribution in Russia in 2006 and once noted enormous growth potential in the country. It said in March it had suspended all exports to Russia as well as local manufacturing of its beers.
But Guinness, which has one-year shelf life when stored in kegs, was still available at two pubs nearby where bartenders said they were selling stocks with little hope they would be replenished any time soon.
“We have stocks that should be enough for half a year,” said a representative of beer importer Nice Beer based in a Moscow suburb.
Foreign-made strong alcohol could also become scarce.
Warehouses are almost empty and restaurants are selling old stock, said Sergei Mironov, Moscow’s restaurant business ombudsman, state news agency RIA reported.
Russia President Vladimir Putin has said the sanctions will rebound on the West and provide new opportunities for Russian firms.
“Sometimes when you look at those who leave – thank God, perhaps? We will occupy their niches: our business, our production – it has already grown, and it will safely sit on the ground prepared by our partners,” Putin said on May 26. read more
With foreign alcohol flows drying up, bars and stores are considering locally-produced drinks.
“We’ve started looking for domestic alternatives to foreign beers and, as a result, the selection has changed drastically. Imported alcohol is now 20-50% more expensive, while local beers are slightly cheaper than imported ones used to be before Feb. 24,” Skripkin said.
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Reporting by Reuters, editing by Ed Osmond
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LONDON — When Jakob Bitner was 7, he left Russia for Germany with his parents and sister. Twenty-eight years later, he is set on solving a vexing green-energy problem that could help Germany end its dependence on imported energy from Russia, or anywhere.
The problem: how to make wind and solar energy available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even if the sun is not shining or the wind not blowing.
The company that Mr. Bitner co-founded in Munich in 2016, VoltStorage, found some success selling storage battery packs for solar power to homeowners in Europe. Now the company is developing much larger batteries — each about the size of a shipping container — based on a chemical process that can store and discharge electricity over days, not just hours like today’s most popular battery technology.
These ambitions to overcome the unreliable nature of renewable energy fit perfectly with Europe’s targets to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But Mr. Bitner’s company is facing a frustrating reality that threatens to undercut Europe’s plans and poses a wider challenge in the global fight against climate change: a lack of money to finish the job.
plenty of capital available globally for the multitrillion-dollar task of funding this transition to greener energy.
Europe’s Shift Away From Fossil Fuels
The European Union has begun a transition to greener forms of energy. But financial and geopolitical considerations could complicate the efforts.
The war in Ukraine has made Europe’s energy transition even more urgent. The European Union has said it will cut imported Russian natural gas by two-thirds this year and completely by the end of the decade. While some of that supply will be made up by imports from other countries, such as the United States and Qatar, expanding domestic renewable energy capacity is a critical pillar to this plan.
But attracting investors to projects trying to move beyond mature technologies like solar and wind power is tough. Venture capitalists, once cheerleaders of green energy, are more infatuated with cryptocurrencies and start-ups that deliver groceries and beer within minutes. Many investors are put off by capital-intensive investments. And governments have further muddied the water with inconsistent policies that undermine their bold pledges to reduce carbon emissions.
Venture capitalists’ other interests
Tony Fadell, who spent most of his career trying to turn emerging technologies into mainstream products as an executive at Apple and founder of Nest, said that even as the world faced the risks of climate change, money was flooding into less urgent developments in cryptocurrency, the so-called metaverse and the digital art collections sold as NFTs. Last year, venture capitalists invested $11.9 billion in renewable energy globally, compared with $30.1 billion in cryptocurrency and blockchain, according to PitchBook.
Of the $106 billion invested by venture capitalists in European start-ups last year, just 4 percent went into energy investments, according to PitchBook.
“We need to get real,” said Mr. Fadell, who now lives in Paris and has proposed ideas on energy policy to the French government. “Too many people are investing in the things that are not going to fix our existential problems. They are just investing in fast money.”
It has not helped that the industry has been burned before by a green tech boom. About 15 years ago, environmentally conscious start-ups were seen as the next big thing in Silicon Valley. One of the premier venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, made former Vice President Al Gore a partner and pledged that clean energy would eventually make up at least a third of its total investments.Instead, Kleiner became a cautionary tale about the risks of investing in energy-related companies as the firm missed out on early backing of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter.
There is evidence that these old fears are receding. Two years ago 360 Capital, a venture capital firm based in Paris and Milan dealing in early-stage investment, introduced a dedicated fund investing in clean energy and sustainability companies. The firm is now planning to open up the fund to more investors, expanding it to €150 million from a €30 million fund.
There are a growing number of dedicated funds for energy investments. But even then there is a tendency for the companies in them to be software developers, deemed less risky than builders of larger-scale energy projects. Four of the seven companies backed by 360 Capital’s new fund are artificial intelligence companies and software providers.
Still, the situation has changed completely since the company’s first major green-energy investment in 2008, Fausto Boni, the firm’s founder, said. “We see potentially lots of money coming into the sector, and so many of the issues we had 15 years ago are on their way to being overcome,” he said. But the availability of bigger investments needed to help companies expand in Europe still lags behind, he added.
The funding gap
Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, which is backed by Bill Gates, is trying to fill the gap. It was formed in late 2021 to help move promising technology from development to commercial use. In Europe, it is a $1 billion initiative with the European Commission and European Investment Bank to support four types of technologies — long-duration energy storage, clean hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels and direct air capture of carbon dioxide — that it believes need to scale quickly.
In Europe, there are “significant difficulties with the scaling-up phase,” said Ann Mettler, the vice president for Europe at Breakthrough Energy and a former director general at the European Commission. There is money for start-ups, but when companies become reasonably successful and a bit larger, they are often acquired by American or Chinese companies, she said. This leaves fewer independent companies in Europe focused on the energy problems they set out to solve.
Companies that build complex — and often expensive — hardware, like Mr. Bitner’s batteries for long-duration energy storage, have an especially hard time finding investors willing to stomach the risks. After a few investment rounds, the companies are too big for early-stage investors but too small to appeal to institutional investors looking for safer places to park large amounts of cash.
“If you look at typical climate technologies, such as wind and solar and even the lithium-ion batteries, they took well over four decades to go from the early R&D to the large-scale commercialization and cost competitiveness,” Ms. Mettler said, referring to research and development. “Four decades — which obviously we don’t have.”
What investors want
There are some signs of improvement, including more funds focused on clean energy or sustainability and more companies securing larger investment rounds. But there is a sense of frustration as investors, companies and European governments agree that innovation and adoption of new technology need to happen much more quickly to reduce carbon emissions sharply by 2030.
“You won’t find a place in the world that is more attuned to what is needed than Europe,” Ms. Mettler said. “It’s not for lack of ambition or vision — it’s difficult.”
But investors say government policy can help them more. Despite climate pledges, the regulations and laws in place haven’t created strong enough incentives for investments in new technologies.
Industries like steel and concrete have to be forced to adopt greener methods of production, Mr. Boni, the 360 Capital founder, said.
For energy storage, hydrogen, nuclear power and other large-scale projects, the government should expedite permitting, cut taxes and provide matching funds, said Mr. Fadell, who has put his personal fortune into Future Shape, which backs start-ups addressing societal challenges.
“There are few investors willing to go all in to put up $200 million or $300 million,” Mr. Fadell said. “We need to know the government is on our side.”
When Google employees returned to their mostly empty offices this month, they were told to relax. Office time should be “not only productive but also fun.” Explore the place a little. Don’t book back-to-back meetings.
Also, don’t forget to attend the private show by Lizzo, one of the hottest pop stars in the country. If that’s not enough, the company is also planning “pop-up events” that will feature “every Googler’s favorite duo: food and swag.”
But Google employees in Boulder, Colo., were still reminded of what they were giving up when the company gave them mouse pads with the image of a sad-eyed cat. Underneath the pet was a plea: “You’re not going to RTO, right?”
R.T.O., for return to office, is an abbreviation born of the pandemic. It is a recognition of how Covid-19 forced many companies to abandon office buildings and empty cubicles. The pandemic proved that being in the office does not necessarily equal greater productivity, and some firms continued to thrive without meeting in person.
a happy hour with its chief executive, Cristiano Amon, at its San Diego offices for several thousand employees with free food, drink and T-shirts. The company also started offering weekly events such as pop-up snack stands on “Take a Break Tuesday” and group fitness classes for “Wellness Wednesday.”
the surveys, is that employees want to see colleagues in person.
After a number of postponements, Google kicked off its hybrid work schedule on April 4, requiring most employees to show up at U.S. offices a few days a week. Apple started easing staff back to the office on Monday, with workers expected to check in at the office once a week at first.
reimburse $49 monthly leases for an electric scooter as part of its transportation options for staff. Google also plans to also start experimenting with different office designs to adapt to changing work styles.
When Microsoft employees returned to their offices in February as part of a hybrid work schedule, they were greeted with “appreciation events” and lawn games such as cornhole and life-size chess. There were classes for spring basket making and canvas painting. The campus pub transformed into a beer, wine and “mocktail” garden.
And, of course, there was free food and drink: pizzas, sandwiches and specialty coffees. Microsoft paid for food trucks with offerings including fried chicken, tacos, gyros, Korean food and barbecue.
Unlike other technology companies, Microsoft expects employees to pay for their own food at the office. One employee marveled at how big a draw the free food was.
signed a letter urging management to be more open to flexible work arrangements. It was a rare show of dissent from the company’s rank-and-file, who historically have been less willing to openly challenge executives on workplace matters.
But as tech companies grapple with offering employees greater work flexibility, the firms are also scaling back some office perks.
cutting back or eliminating free services like laundry and dry cleaning. Google, like some other companies, has said it approved requests from thousands of employees to work remotely or transfer to a different office. But if employees move to a less expensive location, Google is cutting pay, arguing that it has always factored in where a person was hired in setting compensation.
Clio, a legal software company in Burnaby, British Columbia, won’t force its employees back to the office. But last week, it gave a party at its offices.
There was upbeat music. There was an asymmetrical balloon sculpture in Clio’s signature bright blue, dark blue, coral and white — perfect for selfies. One of Clio’s best-known workers donned a safari costume to give tours of the facility. At 2 p.m., the company held a cupcake social.
To make its work spaces feel more like home, the company moved desks to the perimeter, allowing Clions — what the company calls its employees — to gaze out at the office complex’s cherry blossoms while banging out emails. A foosball table was upgraded to a workstation with chairs on either end, “so you could have a meeting while playing foosball with your laptop on it,” said Natalie Archibald, Clio’s vice president of people.
Clio’s Burnaby office, which employs 350, is open at only half capacity. Spaced-out desks must be reserved, and employees got red, yellow and green lanyards to convey their comfort levels with handshakes.
Only around 60 people came in that Monday. “To be able to have an IRL laugh rather than an emoji response,” Ms. Archibald said. “People are just excited for that.”
Heineken seeks to transfer business but won’t profit from sale
AMSTERDAM/COPENHAGEN March 28 (Reuters) – Brewing giants Carlsberg (CARLb.CO) and Heineken (HEIN.AS) said on Monday they would quit Russia, joining an exodus of Western companies as pressure grows on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged international companies to turn their backs on the Russian market after the launch last month of what Moscow termed a “special military operation” against its neighbour. read more
For Carlsberg, the Western brewer most exposed to Russia, the exit would result in a “substantial non-cash impairment charge” this year, it said without providing further details.
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The company holds a 27% share of the local market through its ownership of the country’s biggest brewer, Baltika.
“We have taken the difficult and immediate decision to seek a full disposal of our business in Russia, which we believe is the right thing to do in the current environment,” Carlsberg said. “Upon completion we will have no presence in Russia.”
The company’s shares, which have fallen by roughly a quarter since the start of the invasion, traded 4.2% higher on Monday, heading for their best day since November 2020.
Heineken, the third largest brewer in Russia, earlier said it was aiming for an “orderly transfer” of its local business, which accounts for just 2% of total sales, reducing its operations during a transition period to minimise the risk of nationalisation.
The Dutch brewer expects to book related charges of around 400 million euros ($438 million) and said it would guarantee the salaries of its 1,800 employees in Russia until the end of the year.
Heineken logo is seen at the company’s building in Sao Paulo, Brazil April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
“We have concluded that Heineken’s ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable nor viable,” the company said in a statement, adding that it would not profit from any transfer of ownership.
Its shares were up 0.3% by 1423 GMT.
Carlsberg last year generated 10% of its total revenue and 6% of its operating profit in Russia, where it has eight breweries and 8,400 employees. It took full control of Baltika in 2008 but has faced sluggish sales amid a sanction-hit economy and regulations to curb alcohol abuse.
“The announcement that Carlsberg will leave Russia should help to clear the air and removes the overhang risk,” Jefferies analysts wrote in a research note.
The Danish brewer’s non-current assets in Russia stood at 19.2 billion Danish crowns ($2.83 billion) at the end of 2021, amounting to around 15% of total assets or 44% of its total equity, its annual report showed.
Russia’s second largest brewer is a joint venture owned by Turkey’s Anadolu Efes (AEFES.IS) and Belgium’s InBev (ABI.BR).
InBev said earlier in March it would stop selling Bud beer in Russia and forego profits from the joint venture, which has 11 breweries and 3,500 employees in the country.
($1 = 0.9125 euros)
($1 = 6.7802 Danish crowns)
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Reporting by Sarah Morland, Philip Blenkinsop, Toby Sterling, Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; editing by John Stonestreet, Kirsten Donovan
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YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon — She had watched some of the matches secretly, volume turned down low so that nobody would report her. She had seen the threats, and knew that she could be kidnapped or killed for watching the African soccer tournament that her country, Cameroon, was hosting.
But she was fed up with containing her excitement each time Cameroon scored, so on Wednesday, Ruth, who lives in a region at war where secessionist rebels have forbidden watching the games, secretly traveled to the capital, Yaoundé, to support her team in person.
“I’d love to scream, if it’s possible,” she said on Thursday, after safely reaching Yaoundé, while getting ready for the big game. “I decided to take the risk.”
African soccer is nearing the end of what everyone agrees has been a magnificent month. The 52 games in this year’s much-delayed Africa Cup of Nations tournament have brought some respite for countries going through major political upheaval or war, and those weathering the disruption and hardship wrought by Covid.
coup last week in Burkina Faso, Burkinabe soldiers back home danced with joy. When Senegal then beat Burkina Faso in the semifinal on Wednesday night, Dakar’s streets were filled with cars honking and flags waving. Online, after every match, thousands of people flock to Twitter Spaces to jointly dissect what happened.
a harsh crackdown. Human rights abuses by the military helped fuel a fully-fledged armed struggle by English-speaking fighters known as Amba boys, after Ambazonia, the name they have given their would-be state.
The separatists have warned people there not to watch Afcon, as the soccer tournament is known, and certainly not to support Cameroon. But many anglophones like Ruth — a government worker who asked to be identified by only her first name to protect her from retribution — have defied the risk and have traveled to majority francophone cities to attend matches.
“We may not be a very united nation, but I think this one thing brings us together,” Ruth said, adding that it was common knowledge that even as they threatened, kidnapped and tortured other spectators, the Amba fighters were watching the tournament in their camps.
Afcon is special. Players who are relatively unknown outside their countries’ borders play alongside multimillionaire stars from the world’s most elite teams who take time off to represent their countries, right in the middle of the European season.
overthrew their government.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Sambo Diallo, a fan standing with his arms out in a Yaoundé hotel bursting with fans from Burkina Faso, as a friend painted his entire head, face and torso with his country’s flag. “We weren’t happy, but we had to be brave.”
Despite the anxiety about their families at home, Burkina Faso’s players won that quarterfinal. Still on a high, a green bus full of cheering Burkina Faso fans who had followed their squad around the country rolled into Yaoundé on Wednesday afternoon. Their team was about to meet Senegal in the semis.
Soccer had obviously brought the Senegalese team together, the jewel in its crown one of the biggest stars on the continent, Sadio Mané, who also plays for Liverpool.
eight people died in a stampede. But she got stuck in heavy traffic on her way, and could not make it in time for kickoff. So she ducked into a bar and watched the match there.
Cameroon lost, 3-1, on penalty kicks. “It was still worth it because I could watch with excited fans,” she said.
At the time, the upstarts of the borough’s anti-industrial food revolution were looking for any category they could disrupt through local ingredients or handmade production. Brooklynified beer, chocolate and pizza were gathering hype as well as space on store shelves. Yet frozen dessert remained a maltodextrin wasteland.
“We were like, ‘Why is there no great artisan ice cream in New York City?’” Ms. Dundas said.
Ms. Gallivan said there was a “eureka moment” when the women started craving the kind of ice cream that existed in Boston, “where there’s this amazing ice cream tradition.” In New York, “there was like Tasti D-Lite and Baskin-Robbins — nothing worth the calories, as my mom would say.”
Blue Marble’s overarching concept, like that of so many Brooklyn brands, was lofty and vaguely European, featuring “elemental” flavors sourced from upstate farms with unimpeachable organic pedigrees and no candy or breakfast cereal. If the flavorings leaned pious rather than juvenile, crass marketing it was not: Ms. Gallivan, leveraging her expertise in international aid, set up ambitious satellite projects in Haiti and Rwanda, the latter of which continues 10 years on.
And the ice cream was good.
“It’s in the chew,” said Thomas Bucci Jr., a fourth-generation ice cream maker whose Rhode Island factory “co-packs” pints for Blue Marble and other brands. Good ice cream, he said, “has a certain bite, as opposed to the big guys, where it’s just air — it doesn’t even melt.”
To get that texture, Mr. Bucci said, “you can spend $20-30,000 a week on milk and cream alone.” He added — emphatically — that there were no shortcuts.
Compromises beckoned, however, as Blue Marble began racking up successes in its early years, including partnerships with JetBlue and Facebook.
“It’s really hard in a place like New York to not start compromising, because things are expensive and they eat into your margins,” Ms. Gallivan said. Blue Marble refused to cut corners, she said, in the belief that “ultimately quality ingredients and the best ice cream will prevail.”
The music should be pumping and the burgers and jerk chicken wings flying out of the kitchen this holiday weekend at the Rambler Kitchen and Tap in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago.
To wash it down, patrons might go with a mixed drink or one of the 20 craft beers the bar sells. But many will order a hard seltzer. The Rambler expects to sell close to 500 cans in flavors like peach, pineapple and grapefruit pomelo.
“We’ll sell a lot of buckets of White Claw and Truly seltzers,” said Sam Stone, a co-owner of the Rambler. “It’s going to be a big summer for hard seltzer.”
The Memorial Day weekend kicks off what many hope will be a more normal summer, when kids start counting down the number of days left in school, people head back to the beach and grills heat up for backyard parties that went poof last year because of the pandemic. And for the hard seltzer industry, it’s the start of a dizzying period when dozens of old and new competitors vie to be the boozy, bubbly drink of the season.
ad campaign with the British pop singer Dua Lipa. This spring, the hip-hop star Travis Scott released Cacti, a seltzer made with blue agave syrup, in a partnership with Anheuser-Busch. It quickly sold out in many locations.
“People were lining up outside of the stores to buy Cacti and share pictures of themselves with their carts full of Cacti,” said Marcel Marcondes, the chief marketing officer for Anheuser-Busch.
Also this spring, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer was released. A partnership between Coca-Cola and Molson Coors Beverage, it hit shelves in 16 markets across the country, chasing the cult following of Topo Chico’s seltzer water in the South.
“I feel like I can walk into a party saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I brought the Topo Chico,’” said Dane Cardiel, 32, who works in business development for a podcast company and lives in Esopus, N.Y., about 60 miles south of Albany.
Today in Business
How flavored bubbly water with alcohol became a national phenomenon is partly due to social media videos that went viral and clever marketing that sold hard seltzers as a “healthier” alcohol choice.
White Claw’s slim cans prominently state that the drinks contain only 100 calories, are gluten free and have only two grams each of carbohydrates and sugar. The brand is owned by the Canadian billionaire Anthony von Mandl, who created Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
“The health and wellness element is front and center in terms of the visual marketing,” said Vivien Azer, an analyst at the Cowen investment firm. “Every brand’s packaging features its relatively low carb and sugar data.”
On top of that, the alcohol content in most hard seltzers, about 5 percent, or the same as 12 ounces of a typical beer, is less than a glass of wine or a mixed drink. That makes it easier for people to sip at a party or while watching a game without getting intoxicated or winding up with the belly-full-of-beer feeling.
“It’s a nice drink for an afternoon on the patio,” said Shelley Majeres, the general manager of Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver. “You can drink four or five of them in an afternoon and not have a big hangover or get really drunk.”
Blake Street, an 18,000-square-foot sports bar, started selling hard seltzers two years ago. Today, they make up about 20 percent of its can and bottle sales.
The industry has also neatly sidestepped the gender issue that plagued earlier, lighter alcoholic alternatives like Zima, which became popular with women but struggled to be adopted by men.
“I’ve got just as many men as women drinking it,” said Nick Zeto, the owner of Boston Beer Garden in Naples, Fla. “And it started with the millennials, but now I have people in their 40s, 50s and 60s ordering it.”
That kind of broad appeal is attractive to beer, wine and spirits companies.
“We view ourselves as the challenger brand,” said Michelle St. Jacques, the chief marketing officer of Molson Coors, which has been making beer since the late 1700s but hopes to end this year with 10 percent of the hard seltzer market.
Last spring, the company released Vizzy, a hard seltzer that contains vitamin C. Top Chico came this spring. “We feel like we’re making great progress in seltzer by not trying to bring me-too products, but rather products and brands that have a clear difference,” Ms. St. Jacques said.
While grocery and liquor stores have made plenty of space available to the hard seltzer brands that people drink at home, the competition to get into restaurants and bars is fierce. Most want to offer only two or three brands to their customers.
“Oh, my god, I get presented with new hard seltzer whenever they can get my attention,” said Mr. Stone, who sells six brands at the Rambler. The crowd favorite, he said, is the vodka-based High Noon Sun Sips peach, made by E.&J. Gallo Winery. “Everybody, from the big brands to small, new ones, are getting into the hard seltzer game.”