Starting at launch in 2010, cans of Spindrift seltzer began appearing in Boston-area shops and eateries.
The most noticeable features of Spindrift seltzer drinks are the colors: mango-orange flavor Spindrift appears orange in a glass, while raspberry-lime looks red. These hues are because of real fruit puree being added to each seltzer, which contain a small amount of fruit juice in addition to carbonated water.
Those additions are intentional and distinguishing, according to Spindrift CEO Bill Creelman, who cites “a gap we saw in flavored sparkling water — no real ingredients, clear liquid that had zero color, zero fruit” as the reason for founding Spindrift 13 years ago.
Massachusetts, of course, already makes plenty of seltzer, most notably in Worcester, where Polar Beverages has been operating for more than a century. Despite entering a crowded seltzer market, Spindrift has thrived in recent years, growing to 190 employees across the country, with 55 or so working out of company headquarters in West Newton on an average day.
Spindrift’s website currently lists 17 flavors of sparkling beverages, from simple lemon to seasonals such as spiced apple cider and cranberry-raspberry. First-time drinkers will notice a distinct tartness to most of the drinks, owing to a generous amount of lemon juice or raspberry puree, for example, rather than the essences of those flavors. Spindrift makes teas, also, including flavors like half & half, a five-calorie alternative to the sweetened lemonade-tea combos crowding convenience store fridges.
While Spindrift drinks could be characterized as refined, and the price point is noticeably higher than something like Polar or Bubly, Creelman quibbles with calling the drinks “upscale.”
“Upscale implies that we chased a price premium position deliberately — which was not the case,” says Creelman. “When we looked at what was happening in sparkling water in 2009 and 2010, there wasn’t any alternative that had ingredients we recognized. So we made something we wanted that made sense for our values around food and ingredients.
“It’s fair to say it sits at an accessible premium to existing sparkling water, but not when compared to other products that have real squeezed fruit.”
In 2021, Spindrift entered the hard seltzer market also, and in this space the ingredient difference between Spindrift and its competitors is even more pronounced. Spindrift Spiked hard seltzers contain alcohol from fermented cane sugar and as little as 1 gram of sugar from fruit per can. At 4 percent alcohol by volume and between 82 and 98 calories, Spindrift Spiked comes in flavors like strawberry lemonade, pineapple, and passion orange guava. Drink them straight from the can or use them as mixers for cocktails; add amaro to blood orange tangerine Spindrift for a take on the paper plane cocktail, for example, though there are others.
Is Spindrift better than White Claw or Truly? In some extended taste testing I did, the short answer is that it depends. The difference between Spindrift and the established brands is more evident in single-fruit flavors like lemon, where your preference between sparkling lemon essence and a seltzer made more cloudy and tart by lemon juice matters. Gut check here: stick with the big brands. Advantage Spindrift, though, when it comes to mixed fruit flavors and teas, as well as if you’re using the spiked seltzer in a mixed drink. In the latter scenario, real fruit provides complexity that just isn’t found in Truly or White Claw, enhancing the flavor of the drink rather than just watering it down.