The Internet is awash with tales of White Claw spiked seltzer taking over craft beer. While White Claw is certainly very popular, these claims are largely exaggerated.

White Claw is a leading brand in the booming spiked seltzer category — one we’ve covered several times this year — but the world is not drinking more White Claw than craft beer. At least not yet.

These recent articles refer to a May 2019 Nielsen report on ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages “shaking up the adult beverage market.”  Nielsen’s insights cover RTD broadly, however, and make no mention of White Claw specifically. According to that report, sales of RTD malt-based cocktails grew 574 percent in the year ending April 20, 2019. Hard seltzer sales grew 193 percent during this period.

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A more recent Nielsen report says total beer dollar sales in off-premise retailers grew 1.6 percent this year, with hard seltzers comprising a majority of that growth. On their own, hard seltzer sales increased nearly 211 percent through June 15, 2019, while domestic super premiums grew 11.9 percent, imports grew 6.3 percent, and craft beer sales were down about 1 percent, Brewbound reports.

So, all spiked seltzer, not White Claw in particular, is dominating summer beer sales. The real debate isn’t whether White Claw should be credited with spiked seltzer growth, though. It’s whether spiked seltzer should be categorized as beer. That’s a whole other issue.

Corporate Craft Leads Dollar Sales

According to a recent report, only two of the 10 top-selling craft beer brands have grown so far in 2019. They are Elysian Space Dust IPA (+27 percent), owned by Anheuser-Busch, and Founders All Day IPA (+14.6 percent), partially owned by Mahou San Miguel.

Past the top 10, craft beer brands that showed sales growth include Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing IPA (+126.4 percent), Cigar City Jai Alai IPA (+52.4 percent), New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA (+33.4 percent) and Ranger IPA (+8.8 percent), and Firestone Walker 805 (+17 percent).

It’s great to see regional brands eking out growth in the category. Rejoice! But it’s worth noting that the category leaders are Big Beer-funded brands. Global beer company acquisitions are knocking independent brands out of their slots, just as the independents predicted. Hopefully we can all come to terms with the fact that “craft” and “independent” mean different things.