High Noon Sun Sips is leading spirits-based cocktails into new territory in a quickly evolving beverage alcohol industry. Launched by Spirit of Gallo in May 2019, High Noon’s sales approached $1.25 billion last year, and it became the No. 1-selling spirits brand by volume in the United States, according to Impact Databank. “I was doubtful at first because of the price compared to malt-based hard seltzer,” says Mark O’Callaghan, owner of Exit 9 Wine & Liquor Warehouse in Clifton Park, New York. “The consumer told the industry they are willing to pay for quality. High Noon has a crisp, clean taste, and there is no question on the quality of the product.”
In 2022, High Noon rocketed past Tito’s with 85% growth to 16.4 million cases to become the spirits volume leader. Moreover, High Noon commands about a 40% share of the spirits-based hard seltzer category. “High Noon is just absolutely kicking it and has an incredible volume,” says David Jackson, senior vice president of trade relations for the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association.
Spirit of Gallo is keeping the momentum behind its hard seltzer going with the March 1 launch of High Noon Tequila Seltzer (SRP $22 an eight-pack of 12-ounce cans). “We got 10 cases of the High Noon Tequila Seltzer on March 1 to start with, and we sold out in seven hours,” O’Callaghan says. “It’s doing really well.”
The High Noon extension is made with blanco Tequila and fruit juice and comes in four flavors: Lime, Grapefruit, Strawberry, and Passionfruit. “I’m excited to see what the High Noon Tequila-based hard seltzer does because that is going to be a different consumer than the vodka-based consumer,” says Mat Dinsmore, owner of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, Colorado.
High Noon is the leading spirits-based hard seltzer at Wilbur’s and is neck and neck with less-expensive malt-based hard seltzers White Claw ($18.95 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans) and Truly ($20 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans). “The quality of High Noon is exponentially better than malt-based hard seltzers,” Dinsmore says. “High Noon is successful because it was one of the first spirits-based hard seltzers to market before Covid. It’s good quality and Gallo is second to none in entry to market.”
High Noon received a particularly warm welcome in states like New York, where wine and spirits stores cannot sell malt-based beverage alcohol. “When High Noon made with vodka came out, we said here is our chance to fight the grocery stores and get some of that hard seltzer business,” Exit 9’s O’Callaghan says. “From our New York market where we don’t sell malt-based hard seltzers, it has been a huge addition to our bottom line.”
When High Noon was first introduced, Exit 9 quickly sold out of its inventory and most of the High Noon items were out all summer. In May 2021, O’Callaghan was asked if he would put up a 2,000-case display. “It went up before Memorial Day weekend, and I had to reorder some types by Fourth of July.”
Last year, a 3,500-case display of High Noon was created at Exit 9 for the Memorial Day weekend. O’Callaghan was re-ordering again before July Fourth. This year, O’Callaghan anticipates creating a 4,000- to 5,000-case High Noon display in time for Memorial Day weekend. “During this past summer, you rarely saw a shopping cart in my store with three or four items that didn’t have High Noon in that cart,” O’Callaghan says. “It’s incredible and the brand is doing really well in the on-premise. It’s also competing with beer.”
At Exit 9, High Noon accounted for 31% of total RTD sales in 2021 and 34% of RTD sales in 2022. “In 2022, our total RTD range increased 39%, but High Noon increased 52%,” O’Callaghan says. “It’s moving the trends.”
High Noon’s vodka-based hard seltzer comes in 14 flavors and features mixed and seasonal eight-packs ($18.95 at Exit 9), such as the Pool Pack, Tropical Pack, and Tailgate Pack. The brand appears to have good penetration throughout the different adult-population age groups. “It’s not just a young adult thing,” O’Callaghan says. “It’s all the age groups. I have seen guys from around 30 to 70 drinking High Noon at golf outings.”
Similar trends are observed in the Rocky Mountain State. “You might think it’s soccer moms drinking High Noon but it’s not,” Dinsmore says. “You are seeing more men go to that category because it’s a more versatile drink than beer. It’s attracting traditional beer-drinking men.”
High Noon has attracted a lot attention to the spirits-based hard seltzer category. “The first 90 days of last year, some retailers saw 75 new RTDs,” Dinsmore says. “Let’s face it, the market is saturated with spirits-based RTDs. The market will shake out. There will be some people who disappear, but High Noon has staying power.”