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US drinkers favour spirit-based RTDs

A new report has found that 86% of US consumers believe spirit-based RTDs should be more widely available, including in bars, convenience stores, and entertainment venues.

The majority of US drinkers prefer spirit-based ready-to-drink options

Trade body the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) released a new report that analysed the growth of spirits-based ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails and consumer preferences.

The report is based on a recent consumer survey of 2,000 adults over the age of 21 conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (POS), as well as economic data from Discus and IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

The survey found that 55% of drinkers prefer spirits-based RTDs to other RTD options.

Currently, 47 states allow grocery stores to sell malt-based RTDs, but 16 of those states prohibit the sale of spirit-based variants.

According to the poll, 86% of both consumers and non-consumers of RTD beverages agree that spirit-based options should be sold where other RTD beverages are available for purchase.

A vast majority of survey respondents said they would like the opportunity to buy spirits-based RTDs at restaurants, bars, grocery stores and entertainment venues, such as concerts and sporting events.

“US consumers gravitated toward RTDs as a convenient way to enjoy their favourite cocktail at home during the height of the pandemic, and demand and preference for spirits-based RTDs have continued to grow at a steady rate,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of Discus.

“Consumers are seeking equal access to these spirits-based RTD products in the marketplace, and states are responding.”

Discus said that in states where grocery stores are allowed to sell spirits-based RTDs, access is often still very limited compared to beer or wine products.

The trade body cited Colorado as an example, where around 30 grocery stores sell spirits-based RTDs, compared to nearly 2,000 retailers that sell beer or malt-based RTDs.

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents claim to be a regular or occasional consumer of RTD beverages.

The vast majority (94%) said they choose ready-to-drink serves because they offer their preferred flavour choice, while 92% of consumers drink them for convenience.

Meanwhile, 88% of consumers select ready-to-drink variants because the taste aligns with their favourite alcohol beverage.

“What’s clear from our research is that when it comes to RTD beverages, the majority of alcohol consumers prefer those that are spirits-based,” said Robert Blizzard, partner at POS.

“American consumers are increasingly prioritising convenience, taste, variety, and quality in their choice of beverages. Spirits-based RTDs fit squarely in this trend, so it’s no surprise these products are leading the spirits category in both market growth and consumer popularity.”

Fastest-growing segment

Pre-mixed cocktails, including spirits-based RTDs, were the fastest-growing spirits segment in both sales and volume in the US last year.

Discus’ economic briefing earlier this year showed that pre-mixed cocktails/spirits-based RTDs climbed by 55.9% to 36.6 million nine-litre cases in the US in 2021.

Supplier revenue from sales of the segment soared by 42.3% to US$1.6 billion in sales in 2021.

Specifically, vodka-based RTDs overtook Tequila as the top spirits base in 2021, according to recent analysis from IWSR on the RTD market in the States.

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