RTD cocktails: what's booming and why

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The ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails boom doesn’t look like being crushed any time soon.

We take a look at the fastest growing ingredients and flavours pushing these canned wonders into consumers hands and some of the reasons behind their success.

RTD alcohol (which includes hard seltzers) has grown faster than any other alcoholic beverage category since 2018.

North America represents 40% of the global market, and with the hard seltzer market saturated brands are looking to differentiate in the hard RTD Cocktail space as consumers look for ‘better-for-you’ options.

3 factors driving the explosion

1. Flavour

RTD Cocktails are all about the sensorial benefits they bring - think taste, flavour and mouthfeel, or texture. Research from IWSR shows that flavour is the number one reason that people drink RTD cocktails. It’s no surprise that premium products with natural ingredients are the driving force in this category.

2. Quality Innovation

The RTD space is ripe for innovation. Most new product launches (NPLs) in the past 12 months have had a premium slant and in the US, spirit-based cocktails such as vodka, tequila and rum are driving the growth, pushing ahead where most products are still malt based.

3. Experience in a can for every occasion

It seems there is an RTD for everyone and every lifestyle, offering a way for consumers to experiment with different flavours and spirits.

In NA COVID saw this category explode and that growth is continuing as brands look to expand and reach consumers through non-traditional off premise channels such as golf courses, cinemas, sports arenas, airlines, amusement parks, music venues – a broad range of different consumption opportunities and occasions.

During COVID formats for RTD cocktails were often larger to accommodate being drunk at home, like jugs of margarita. We are seeing more innovation now in smaller formats but some premium brands are also looking at premiumising larger formats such as glass bottles for home bars for example, or eye catching cans for taking to the beach or events.

What's next

Whisky-based cocktails and high proof spirit-based cocktails are growing, with a world of spirits to be explored and endless flavour pairing options to play for.

Expect to see growth in non-alcohol spirit-based cocktails too.

Consumers are becoming more educated about ingredients and seeking to learn more about what they are drinking – often favouring spirit based RTD alcohol over malt or fermented sugar base drinks.

Whether you’re reformulating a product or developing a new one, talk to our experts today.


  • IWSR
  • Mintel GNPD

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