Business

Whitewater Brewery launches vegan-friendly hard seltzer range to drive exports

Gary McDonald Business Editor

WHITEWATER in Castlewellan has become the first brewery in Ireland to launch a ready-made beer product suitable for vegans.

It has invested more than £400,000 to develop a new range of hard seltzers, in four different flavours, to capitalise on the growing demand for ready-to-drink products - and increase its reach in international markets.

Vegan beer products were once considered a fad, but are now part of the fabric of the industry, and the increase comes as Sainsbury's estimates that 25 per cent of the UK could have turned vegan or vegetarian by 2025.

Whitewater managing director Bernard Sloan said: “Premixed ready-to-drink cocktail-style drinks are gaining momentum globally, and as consumers become more educated about the quality of ingredients, we wanted to create a new low-calorie vegan-friendly line focussed on the use of natural flavours.

“Our new hard seltzers come in four flavour combinations, all brewed in Castlewellan, fermented from scratch and have no added artificial preservatives or sweeteners.”

He added: “Innovation and new product development are core to our business, and we are the first brewery on the island of Ireland to launch a seltzer of this type.

“We've launched in Northern Ireland for now, but our next steps include launching in GB and to extend this to our existing export markets of Russia, Japan, Italy and France.

“Seltzers have seen phenomenal growth in the US market, and we hope to be in the lead group of producers outside the US to capitalise on this growing trend.”

Invest NI has offered Whitewater £96,700 towards equipment and consultancy services to support the development and launch of the new hard seltzer product line.

The agency's food and drink director John Hood said: “Whitewater Brewery recognises that to remain competitive, innovation is key and following research which has shown it that consumer demand for can and ready-to-drink products is growing rapidly, it approached us to see how we could support it to break into the ready-to-drink market.

“We offered Whitewater support to instal filling and packaging technology, which has helped it to expand its product offering and production capacity for its new line of ready-to-drink hard seltzers.

“This in turn is ensuring it is in the best position to capitalise on the major market opportunities that exist for hard seltzers in the UK, RoI and further afield.

“The investment is already leading to new contracts, most recently with Sainsbury's, and with its new-found packaging flexibility, it can tailor its product sizes to meet specific export market opportunities.”

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