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This State Is Removing Hard Seltzers from Grocery Store Shelves

Shoppers will have to hit a liquor store for any with an ABV over 5%.

Despite their popularity, beginning this summer residents of one western state will no longer find selected brands of hard seltzers and kombuchas on the shelves of their grocery and convenience stores. Both contain alcohol — added in the seltzers, naturally occurring in kombucha, a fermented tea — which is prohibited in this "dry state" unless sold in state-operated liquor stores.

Although the alcohol level is low in both products, most reporting 5% or lower alcohol by volume (ABV), 5% is the new legal limit in Utah, and it is enough to push 39 of the 80 currently approved brands out of the markets starting July 1, The Salt Lake Tribune says. The ban does not affect products using glycol-based flavorings, only the ethyl alcohol additive.

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Some of the brands affected include three flavors of Bud Light Seltzer, six flavors of Coors Seltzer, four flavors of Truly Hard Seltzer, and eight flavors of Flying Embers Hard Kombucha.

It won't be easy for consumers to maneuver the changes in the grocery aisles either, at least in the beginning. Since the amount of alcohol is the only standard to follow, one high ABV brand in a variety pack will banish all of the drinks, even if their ABV is lower, to one of Utah's 45 official liquor resellers.

The ban is part of the State Legislature's omnibus alcohol bill, which also changed the name of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to the less-strident-sounding Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services.

Approximately two-thirds of Utah's 3.2 million residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose teachings prohibit, for health reasons, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.

The growing national popularity of hard seltzers and kombucha had come to Utah. Shanna Clay, an executive with a beverage wholesaler, told Food Manufacturing that sales in Utah over the past few years have been "remarkable."

The ban, she said, "causes quite a few complications, not just locally, but nationally, and will impact the supply chain structure everywhere."

For more info, here is What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Hard Seltzer.

Karen Peterson
Karen is a former writer and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. Read more about Karen