New SunnyD Vodka Seltzer draws in nostalgic appeal and new criticisms


(NEW YORK) — Nothing quite quenched a kid’s thirst after a long afternoon on the monkey bars, jumping on trampolines or riding a Razor scooter like SunnyD.

Now, to the delight of ’80s and ’90s kids, the juice brand has a new boozy beverage for adults. But they have faced some criticism for the alcoholic iteration of the drink with some seeing it as blurring the line between brand recognition and age appropriateness.

“It is very hard if you have a brand that has been built up on a loyal followership of younger people … to then stretch that brand into alcohol, which clearly should be targeted to people over the age of 21,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling, a former strategic planning director for Guinness in Ireland, told ABC News.

Harvest Hill Beverage Company announced the launch of SunnyD Vodka Seltzer, which rolls out nationwide at select Walmart stores and retailers on March 11.

Orange juice has long been a popular mixer for cocktails — from screwdrivers to mimosas — which the brand said served as a point of inspiration for the new 95-calorie ready-to-drink SunnyD Vodka Seltzer.

“Consumers are passionate about this iconic brand, rooted in nostalgia but with a taste that resonates today. Many have told us that they enjoy SunnyD as a mixer and asked for this product,” Ilene Bergenfeld, chief marketing officer of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, said in a statement. “So, we looked at the hard seltzer category, and thought, good, but we can do better. And SunnyD Vodka Seltzer was born.”

Harvest Hill is not the first soft drink company to partner with alcohol brands to produce what are known as “crossover products.” Coca-Cola teamed up with Molson Coors to create Simply Spiked Hard Lemonade and PepsiCo worked with Boston Beer Company to launch a hard version of Mountain Dew, stylized as Hard Mtn Dew, which contains 0.5% more alcohol than the new SunnyD.

Unlike its plastic bottle soft drink counterparts, SunnyD Vodka Seltzer is made with real fruit juice, zero grams of sugar and 4.5% ABV. It comes in a convenient four-pack of slim 12-ounce cans for $9.99. Single cans will also available to purchase.

SunnyD was first developed in 1963 by two Florida dads and grew to peak popularity in the ’90s. The brand, which was acquired by Harvest Hill Beverage Company in 2017, said in a press release they’ve seen renewed interest with 30% growth since 2019.

“We have developed something we know adult SunnyD fans and hard seltzer enthusiasts alike will be proud to enjoy,” Bergenfeld said.

Earlier this year, a bill was passed in the Virginia General Assembly that would require Hard Mtn Dew and similar alcoholic products be placed on separate store shelves to clearly distinguish it from their regular soft drink counterparts.

Democratic State Sen. Barbara Favola, the sponsor of the Senate bill and chair of the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, explained her support for the measure in a speech last month.

“The intent is to make sure that consumers completely understand that the yellow can that has alcohol in it is labeled and the yellow can that does not have alcohol in it that might look similar is apart from that that has the alcohol in it,” she said.

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