With its light, refreshing profile and nostalgic flavor, hard lemonade has a lot of consumer appeal. The category has seen significant growth on Drizly over the past four years, increasing its share of the overall beer category from 0.5 percent in 2019 to 1.1 percent in 2023 year to date. Though the category is still small, even compared with other hard alternatives such as hard seltzer and hard iced tea, the steady growth of hard lemonade indicates that this is a category to watch. 

NielsenIQ (NIQ) sales figures show impressive gains for malt-based hard lemonade; dollar sales increased 7.5 percent in the 52 weeks ending June 17, 2023, and case unit sales grew 1.3 percent. Among ready-to-drink cocktails, dollar sales for lemonade varieties surged 71 percent, reflecting the flavor’s popularity across categories.

“Part of the growth in the hard lemonade category can be attributed to new brand releases, especially Simply Spiked,” which is an extension of the well-known Simply juice brand, says Drizly’s head of consumer insights Liz Paquette. “In the past year it moved into the No. 2 best-selling brand position.” 

Hard Lemonade Trends

Along with new brand entries, a couple of trends have emerged within the hard lemonade space in recent years. One, says Paquette, is messaging around real fruit juice and natural ingredients. “Another trend we expect to see,” she adds, “is a surge in lower-sugar options, as we have seen in similar categories like hard iced tea.” 

In a recent report on the hottest beverage trends for the summer of 2023, NIQ called out “refreshing fruit infusions” among the top five, crediting consumer perceptions of these drinks as healthier and lower in calories than alternative options.  

“Real juice” messaging certainly played a key role in the launch of Simply Spiked Lemonade. In a statement announcing the product’s 2022 release, Molson Coors noted its mission to “bring real fruit juice credentials to the ready-to-drink alcohol beverage space.”

Joy Ghosh, the vice president of the Molson Coors “Above Premium Flavor” portfolio, which includes Simply Spiked, notes that consumers are looking for bold flavors in hard lemonade. “Generally,” she says, “we’re seeing consumers shifting to more full-flavor lemonade options and away from seltzer lemonades.”

Going forward, Ghosh says she sees opportunities for category growth with higher-ABV and zero-sugar lemonade products. “We’re excited to continue to innovate and evolve in the space,” she says. 

Drizly’s Top-Selling Hard Lemonade Brands

  1. Mike’s Hard
  2. Simply Spiked
  3. Mike’s Harder
  4. Arnold Palmer Spiked
  5. Smirnoff Ice

Simply Spiked replaced Mike’s Harder in the No. 2 position this year, demonstrating the new brand’s meteoric rise within the category. Smirnoff Ice replaced Four Loko in the No. 5 spot and Arnold Palmer slipped from No. 3 to the fourth position. Truly Hard Seltzer, which ranked fourth last year, did not make it into this year’s top five.

Drizly’s Best-Selling Hard Lemonade SKUs

  1. Simply Spiked Lemonade Variety Pack
  2. Mike’s Hard Lemonade Variety Pack
  3. Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  4. Mike’s Harder Lemonade
  5. Mike’s Hard Black Cherry Lemonade
  6. Mike’s Hard Strawberry Lemonade
  7. Arnold Palmer Spiked Half & Half
  8. Mike’s Harder Cranberry Lemonade
  9. Simply Spiked Peach Variety Pack
  10. Mike’s Hard Mango Lemonade

Among the top-selling SKUs in 2022, Mike’s accounted for nine out of 10 products. This year, Simply took over the No. 1 and No. 9 spots, and Arnold Palmer’s Spiked Half & Half retained the No. 7 position.  

Ghosh notes that Simply Spiked’s Signature Lemonade was the brand’s top-selling product during the last year, followed by its Strawberry Lemonade. The recently released Simply Spiked Peach line has also been gaining traction this summer.

Who is Buying Hard Lemonade – and Where

Hard lemonade buyers on Drizly skew younger than the platform’s average consumer. Gen Z accounted for a 10 percent share of the category’s sales over the past 12 months compared to five percent of overall sales on the platform. 

Ghosh reports that Simply Spiked’s core consumer skews a bit older at age 45-plus, though the brand has also brought younger consumers aged 21 to 34 into the hard lemonade category.

Those who purchase hard lemonade on Drizly also tend to purchase other light-style beverages, with vodka, malt liquor, hard seltzer, white wine, and light lager making up the top five categories sold in the same order with hard lemonade. 

In terms of regional sales, New Jersey is Drizly’s top market for hard lemonade. Other areas that over-index on hard lemonade relative to overall sales on the category include Denver, Boston, Baltimore, Phoenix, and Providence.

Drizly’s Fastest-Growing Hard Lemonade SKUs

  1. Simply Spiked Lemonade Variety Pack
  2. Smirnoff Ice Neon Lemonade Variety Pack
  3. Mike’s Harder Watermelon
  4. Cape May Brewing Co., Hard Lemonade
  5. Mike’s Harder Strawberry Lemonade

Large brands account for most of the top five, with the exception of Cape May Brewing. Cape May is New Jersey’s third-largest craft brewery and produces a range of beers, hard seltzers, and hard lemonades.