If there’s any lesson to take away from Fourth of July sales — and from 2020 sales trends overall — it’s this: Hard seltzer is worth investing in. While liquor came out as the overall category winner over the summer’s big holiday, hard seltzer showed some of the highest growth year-over-year on Drizly, and is poised to continue selling well throughout the season.

With 435 percent higher sales growth above baseline (or what Drizly expected to see) for the week of July 4 over last year, more users turned to Drizly for holiday liquor purchases. These July 4 sales data points offer insights into best end-of-summer inventory investments for all retailers. From a new, best-selling brand to the rise of tequila and ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, these are the brands and categories that “won” Fourth of July — and are poised to continue winning well through Labor Day weekend.

Make Room for Hard Seltzer

Hard seltzer emerged as the big winner in Fourth of July sales this year. It posted some of Drizly’s fastest growth and jumped from the eighth-highest sales sub-category last year, representing 17 percent of beer category sales, to the fourth-highest sales sub-category this year, representing 25 percent of beer category.

“This holiday proved that it’s not going anywhere and is only continuing to spike in popularity,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. Across the entire off-premise channel, Nielsen reports that hard seltzer recorded its best week of sales ever during the week ending July 4, up 134 percent compared to the same week last year.

The reasons for hard seltzer’s holiday success are many. Not only is the category still relatively new — it first spiked in popularity on Drizly over the July 4 weekend last year — but Covid-related restrictions have also caused many Americans to be less active in recent months, so they may be more calorie conscious. 

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Hard seltzer also works well with responsible socialization choices, says Paquette. “For safety reasons, many people are opting to enjoy more time outside,” says Paquette. “Hard seltzers and RTDs are an easier and more convenient option to enjoy outdoors, particularly for a group.”

Among the best-selling brands of hard seltzer, White Claw still holds the top spot (though White Claw was not able to beat out the Tito’s, which remained the best-selling brand across all categories). However, some of White Claw’s sub-category dominance has been eaten away, falling from 63 percent of hard seltzer share in 2019 to 53 percent in 2020. 

Some of those dollars went to Truly, which maintained the number two spot while inching up from 19 percent of share last year to 21 percent of share this year. A few percentage points more went to Smirnoff Seltzer, which increased from .2 percent to 3.8 percent of sales, yet dropped one spot to be this year’s fifth-most-popular brand.

The biggest brand shake-ups were courtesy of newcomers Bud Light Seltzer (8.8 percent of sub-category sales) and Corona Seltzer (4.4 percent of sub-category sales), which held the third and fourth-place rankings over the Fourth of July. Surprisingly, last year’s third-place hard seltzer brand, BON V!V, fell out of the top five rankings.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that the top five brands comprised 90.6 percent of hard seltzer sales over the July 4 holiday this year, down about 4 percent from last year. This points to the increased diversification of the hard seltzer category as a whole, as new brands launch and capture consumer attention. Regardless of which hard seltzer brands a retailer decides to stock, the sub-category has become an absolute essential in order to drive sales through Labor Day — and, likely, beyond. 

Liquor Takes Over

Despite hard seltzer’s skyrocketing growth, liquor still won out over wine and beer as a whole, comprising 43 percent of Fourth of July sales on Drizly. Vodka was the best-selling liquor sub-category, followed by bourbon and silver-blanco tequila.

These sub-category trends were reflected across top-selling liquor brands as well. Tito’s — which was also last year’s top-selling liquor brand — came out on top, followed by Casamigos, Don Julio, Bulleit, and Jack Daniel’s. In fact, four out of the top ten best-selling liquor brands on Drizly were tequilas, pointing to the category’s steady growth throughout the first half of 2020.

While it didn’t rank among the top 10 sales sub-categories, the RTD cocktail category was one of the fastest-growing over the Fourth of July. According to Nielsen, RTDs experienced their highest off-premise sales numbers since April: A 164 percent increase year-over-year. This was reflected by the popularity of High Noon among Drizly users, which snuck into the number seven spot on the liquor brand sales list. High Noon was also likely buoyed by its appeal as a crossover RTD cocktail-hard seltzer product.

Wine was the second-best category seller over the Fourth of July, accounting for 33 percent of Drizly sales and claiming the holiday’s top sub-category. White wine was the most popular sub-category of choice, followed by red wine and rosé wine. Though Drizly saw a slight decrease in July 4 rosé sales, compared to 2019, the rosés of Château d’Esclans took the third-highest sales ranking among wine brands, trailing only Bota Box (#2) and Josh Cellars (#1).

Unsurprisingly, hard seltzer was the most important sub-category within beer over the Fourth of July on Drizly; according to Nielsen, it comprised a record-breaking 11.9 percent of category share during the week ending July 4. Overall, beer comprised 22 percent of sales on Drizly.

Excluding hard seltzer brands, the holiday’s best-selling beers were in line with overall 2020 trends. Bud Light was the highest-selling beer brand on Drizly, followed by Corona (which dropped from the #1 spot last year), Coors, Miller Brewing Co., and Michelob. However, people bought significantly more Sam Adams on the Fourth holiday, likely because of the brand’s founding fathers association.