About half of the hard seltzers available in Utah will soon be removed from supermarket and convenience store shelves, and available only in state liquor stores, because of a change in state law that passed the Utah Legislature this week.
As part of the Legislature’s omnibus alcohol bill, which cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday and is headed to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk, the state will prohibit the sale of beverages that contain even a trace amount of ethyl alcohol, a commonly used stabilizer for artificial flavorings that is used in such products as soda, mustard and teriyaki sauce.
Of the 80 hard seltzers and kombuchas approved for sale in Utah grocery and convenience stores, according to Michelle Schmitt, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 39 of them have ethyl alcohol in their flavorings. Those varieties most likely will be moved to state liquor stores, she said.
If Cox signs the bill, which is likely, the new law would take effect July 1. Stores would be given six months to comply. Products that use glycol-based flavorings could still be sold in grocery and convenience stores.
The omnibus bill also, among other actions, would change the DABC’s name to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services, and would end the practice of allowing holders of liquor licenses to sell them to the highest bidder.
The growing popularity of hard seltzers in Utah over the last two or three years has been “remarkable,” said Shanna Clay, director of operations for M&M Distributing, a wholesaler of beer and similar products. The change in the law, she added, “causes quite a few complications, not just locally, but nationally, and will impact the supply chain structure everywhere.”
“The suppliers are having to go back to their flavoring houses to see what can be reformulated with ethyl alcohol, or to try to get it switched over to propylene glycol,” Clay said. “That then touches packaging, food, nutrition labels and ingredients. It creates hiccups across the whole system, and everyone’s going to encounter that with this short window of trying to get products compliant.”
The change will be confusing, Clay said, “because to the consumer of hard seltzer, 5 percent [alcohol volume] is 5 percent.”
Also, some brands use both types of additives, depending on the flavor. For example, according to DABC, four flavors of Bon & Viv Hard Seltzer would be available in grocery stores, because their flavorings are glycol-based — while four other varieties of the same brand, because their flavors contain ethyl alcohol, would not be sold in grocery stores.
Also, some brands package their seltzers in variety packs, and if even one flavor is made with ethyl alcohol, the whole pack would be allowed only in liquor stores.
Clay noted that her company distributes hard seltzers to 1,300 stores in six Utah counties: Davis, Salt Lake, Summit, Tooele, Utah and Wasatch. Those seltzers with ethyl alcohol flavorings will now be sold only in 45 state liquor stores. For M&M and the other distributors in the state, Clay said, the loss of sales will inevitably lead to a loss in jobs.
The Utah Legislature banished “flavored malt beverages” — so-called “alcopops,” such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade — to state liquor stores in 2008. The beverages were allowed back into grocery and convenience stores in 2016, when the DABC ruled that their formulation had been altered enough to qualify as “beer” under Utah law.
Schmitt said DABC is working with beverage makers, confirming what ingredients are being used in each product, to determine which ones will be moved to state liquor stores and which ones can be sold in grocery and convenience stores. There are applications pending for other seltzer products, and those also will be reviewed, she said.
Here, as of Friday, are the specific brands and flavors of hard seltzers and kombuchas that can be sold only at liquor stores, or can be sold in grocery and convenience stores.
OK in liquor stores only
• Five flavors of Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer: black cherry, coconut pineapple, cranberry, grapefruit, and lemon-lime (no longer listed on the company’s website).
• Three flavors of Bud Light Seltzer: lemon/lime, mango and strawberry.
• Six flavors of Coors Seltzer: Pure Berry, citrus, black cherry, grapefruit, mango and raspberry. (Molson Coors discontinued Coors Seltzer in the United States last July, to concentrate on its Vizzy brand.)
• Three flavors of Leinenkugel’s Spritzen: grapefruit, pineapple/strawberry and raspberry/lemon.
• Five flavors of Pompette Hard Sparkling Water: Clementine/berry, cucumber/lime, grapefruit/bergamot, lemon/mint and rose/hibiscus.
• Four flavors of Truly Hard Seltzer: Lemon iced tea, peach iced tea, raspberry iced tea and strawberry iced tea.
• Thirteen flavors of Vizzy Hard Seltzer: black cherry/lime, blackberry/lemon, blueberry/pomegranate, blueberry/watermellon, kiwi/watermelon, mango/watermelon, papaya/passionfruit, pineapple/mango, raspberry lemonade, raspberry/tangerine, strawberry/kiwi, strawberry lemonade and watermelon/strawberry.
• Eight flavors of Flying Embers Hard Kombucha: ancient berry, berry USDA Organic, ginger & oak, grapefruit thyme, lemon orchard, pineapple chili, watermelon and wild berry.
• Four flavors of Jiant Hard Kombucha: gingerly, guavamente, hicamaya and original.
• Two flavors of Juneshine Hard Kombucha: lime and orange.
OK in grocery and convenience stores
• Four flavors of Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer: Raspberry dragonfruit, clementine hibiscus, mango and pear elderflower.
• Nine flavors of Breckenridge Good Company Hard Seltzer: Apple and pear, blueberry lemonade, honeydew, lemon-limeade, lemonade, mountain berry, original lemonade, strawberry lemonade and black cherry.• One flavor of Bud Light Hard Seltzer: Black cherry.
• Four flavors of Four Peaks Solar Powered Hard Seltzer: Tropical, grapefruit, prickly pear and lime.
• Two flavors of Golden Road Fruit Cart Hard Seltzer: Cucumber lime and watermelon.
• Two flavors of Grid City Bubble Works Hard Seltzer: Hoppy hard seltzer and lime.
• Four flavors of Kona Spiked Island Hard Seltzer: Tropical punch, passionfruit orange guava, starfruit lime and strawberry guava.
• One flavor of Natural Light Naturdays Hard Seltzer: Pineapple lemonade.
• One flavor of Pakka Hard Water: Cranberry ginger.
• Three flavors of Roosters Hard Seltzer: Mango blood orange, mojito and watermelon.
• One flavor of Steel Reserve Hard Seltzer: Spiked strawberry burst.
• Four flavors of 10 Barrell Clean Line Hard Seltzer: Blackberry cucumber, cherry lime, huckleberry and lime mango.
• Three flavors of White Claw Hard Seltzer: black cherry, mango and watermelon.