In March, Nielsen released data showing alcohol sales were up 55 percent in this environment of business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. Besides the upswing in sales, the report also revealed that ready-to-drink cocktails were the fastest growing area in alcohol sales, showing a 106 percent increase.
So, what’s driving this drastic escalation? In the era of coronavirus, stay-at-home drinking—even alone—may be the new pub crawl, and consumers are looking at two primary factors: convenience and accessibility. As consumers look for convenient beverage options that don’t require a lot of supplies or trips to the store, ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs) fill that need. They can be kept on hand and stored without taking up space in the refrigerator until it’s time to drink them. Malt-based RTDs, in particular, are available anywhere beer is sold, which is a significant advantage, as there are twice as many outlets in the United States licensed to sell malt than there are spirits. And when purchased from grocery retailers, RTDs can be delivered directly to consumers’ homes along with food and household items.
Consumers are looking to recreate the authentic cocktail experience they’re missing with products that pack flavor and offer variety, and malt-based RTDs are a popular option. In the same vein, retail convenience stores are experiencing an uptick in traffic, especially as nonessential businesses and establishments remain closed throughout the United States.
Unlike traditional mixes, RTDs come with alcohol already in them, giving customers a true cocktail experience in an easy, accessible, grab-and-go environment. Now more than ever—and not only due to the current environment, but also to the hard seltzer trend—consumers are moving away from beer and closer to the flavor and energy of spirits. RTDs have breathed new life into the flavored malt beverage category, which has long been known for sweet, sugary alternatives to spirits, wine, and beer.
Today’s RTDs are more sophisticated than those of the previous decade, as they deliver the freshness and quality of made-from-scratch cocktails, as well as interesting flavors that haven’t historically been available away from the bar.
Ready-to-drink cocktails check the boxes for convenience, portability, flavor, and even sustainability. They’re not limited to the restrictions of liquor stores, they pack authentic flavor and variety, and they’ve met consumer demand for alternative, sustainable packaging formats such as recyclable cans.
Looking to the future, we should all expect to see continued innovation from the canned cocktail industry as consumer lifestyles and preferences shift, even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
Erin Winczura is the founder and chairman of Ennoble Beverages, an industry-leading beverage company that produces great tasting, ready-to-drink Flavored Malt Beverage (FMB) cocktails including Tipsy Tomato Bloody Mary, Frank’s RedHot Bloody Mary, and TGI Friday’s Long Island Iced Teas and Moscow Mule. Winczura is also the founder and CEO of Canterbury Group, a global investment firm with $6 billion of assets under management and custody. A native British-Columbian, Winczura holds a B.A. in economics and political science from the University of the Fraser Valley, as well as an additional bachelor’s degree in commerce, with a bias in finance, from LaSalle Ramon Llull University.