A Shandy for Every Season: Brew Companies Offer a Refreshing Take on Beer

A Shandy for Every Season: Brew Companies Offer a Refreshing Take on Beer

If you’ve been to a cookout this summer, then there’s a good chance you’ve tried a shandy. Sometimes referred to as Radlers, shandies are the new adult lemonade—because they’re part beer. The other part is non-alcoholic, and can be anything from lemonade to soda to apple juice. If they still don’t sound familiar, that’s bound to change before too long.

Shandies represent a small but growing share (0.6% dollar share) of the malt-based cider/category—they already account for $113 million in sales this year, up 19% from a year ago. While their cut of the overall category is just 0.6% on a dollar basis (YTD 2014), shandy sales have skyrocketed 90% since 2012.

A few major players dominate the shandy category, and the top three brands have pulled in 98% of the shandy dollar volume in year-to-date 2014. It’s a tight sector, as the top brand drives 78% of the dollar volume. The three big players, and the majority of remaining shandy brands, are part of the craft beer family. To date this year, shandies have made up 6% of craft’s dollar volume. Because of this, shandy consumers look very similar to craft consumers. They come from higher-income households and include legal-drinking-age Millennials.

So why are legal-drinking-age Millennials and other young of-age drinkers flocking to shandies? Some of it may be due to an influx of new brands (and marketing) in the last few years. Nielsen has identified 13 brands currently in the market, six of which have come to market since 2012. While these new brands represent only about 6% of this year’s shandy dollar volume, the brands that have only been around since 2012 or later have driven nearly 12% of the dollar volume growth in year-to-date 2014.


Another factor that may be driving growth of shandy is flavor innovation beyond the traditional lemon and orange varieties. In the last two years, non-traditional flavors like grapefruit and ginger have made their way to market. While they still represent a small portion of shandies (1% of dollar volume YTD), they have accounted for 3% of growth. Shandy buyers’ penchant for flavor is further evidenced by their high intent to also purchase cider and flavored malt beverages. Flavor appears to be the obvious growth opportunity for shandy—one that closely parallels the excitement around flavors in other beer segments and the spirits category. In fact, one of the top shandy brands just announced plans to release pumpkin, cranberry ginger and old fashioned (a mixture of oak and citrus) flavors this fall.


In addition to offering a bevy of flavors to quench, shandies tend to benefit from greater consumption during warmer months, given their “sessionable” nature to refresh without over-indulgence. Sessionable beverages have lower alcohol levels than average, allowing drinkers to consume more without feeling the effects as strongly. Nearly all shandies fall within the 4.2%-4.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) range. Comparatively, the average non-lite beer weighs in at about 5% ABV, and some craft beers pack a punch of as much as 10% ABV.

It’s also worth noting that shandies are growing in popularity outside of summer. While more than two-thirds of shandy dollar sales came between May and August, the variety of flavors and their sessionable nature appeal to plenty of scenarios away from the pool and backyard barbecue.

Summer, however, is still when the category sees the most consumption—and many of this year’s shandies arrived in cans instead of bottles. Less than 20% of shandies (17%) are canned, but dollar volume from cans is growing at 60% this year versus 14% for bottles. This year, Nielsen identified 10 new shandy items, and six of them come in cans. Year-to-date, shandy cans have contributed 28% of the sector’s growth.

So it may be another long winter ahead, but there’s the light at the end of the tunnel with summer and the delicious shandies it brings along with it. And if the past few years have proven anything, consumers are in for a treat with a steady stream of new brands, flavors and packaging being introduced into this growing category.