Why Urban Artifact Pulled the Plug on Seltzer

Not every seltzer story has a happy ending for craft breweries.

Ohio’s Urban Artifact had a hard seltzer program for about two years that made it into distribution, but the sales ultimately weren’t enough for co-founder Bret Kollmann Baker to keep the product at its company, which has evolved into a fruit-beer focused brewery after originally starting out with a focus on sours.

“Our second year, we got good placement in grocery and other chain accounts, but ultimately it was a sales thing,” he said. “The velocity just wasn’t there. Some of it may have been our (higher) price point, and some of it may have been what our brand is to our customers relative to what seltzer is.”

Fruit beers are what Urban Artifact hangs its hat on. So deciding to take fruit and make a real fruit seltzer wound up being what Baker called a trap.

“We had to use real fruit if we were going to follow our model,” he said. “There never really was a demand for a higher-end fruit product that’s using fruit the way we do in our beers. I think other brewers need to recognize what is driving their success. Are you getting deeper or wider? If it’s just wider, you’re going to run into problems like we did.”

One question brewers need to ask themselves is whether they can make it better than existing players in the market and if they can stand out.

READ MORE: The Roles Hard Seltzer Plays for 3 Sheeps

“Chances are the answers are no and no for 99% of breweries,” he said. “If we want something like that for our taproom, like for a gluten-free option, we can buy a guest product because we’re in Ohio.”

He disagreed with the notion that there’s overlap between craft beer and seltzer consumers.

“Seltzer drinkers are looking for a party beverage, or something that they can drink a lot of and not think about it, like Bud Light has too much flavor for them and that’s not our customer,” he said. “We thought our seltzer would be our ‘light beer.’ Is it the equivalent of a craft light beer? It isn’t. Our customers just aren’t looking for that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *