DISCUS Report: RTDs Still Booming

by The Staff

A recent report from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) confirms continued growth for ready-to-drink (RTD) products, plus consumer preference for spirits-based RTDs.

The report, based on a consumer survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (POS) and economic data from DISCUS and IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, found that premixed cocktails — which include spirits-based RTDs — were the fastest growing spirits category in both revenue and volume in 2021. This follows a robust 2020 performance for the category.

Moreover, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents considered themselves regular or occasional consumer of RTD beverages. And these consumers are looking for spirits-based RTDS, rather than malt.

“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,” says Robert Blizzard, partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “American consumers are increasingly prioritizing 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.”

The report also highlighted that adult consumers want greater access to spirits-based RTDs in the marketplace, including at restaurants and bars, grocery and convenient stores, and entertainment venues like concerts and sporting events.

“U.S. consumers gravitated toward RTDs as a convenient way to enjoy their favorite 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,” says 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.”

Findings included:

  • Premixed Cocktails/Spirits-Based RTDs Take Broader Share of Market: Supplier revenue from sales of premixed cocktails/spirits-based RTDs rose by 42.3 percent to $1.6 billion in sales in 2021.
  • Consumers Increasingly Prefer Spirits-Based RTDs: 55% of respondents prefer spirits-based beverages to other RTD choices.
  • Consumer Choice in RTDs Driven by Variety, Taste and Convenience: 94% of consumers choose RTDs because they offer their preferred flavor choice, 92% of consumers choose RTDs for convenience, and 88% of consumers select RTDs because the taste aligns with their favorite alcohol beverage.
  • Consumers Want Greater Access to Spirits-Based RTDs: An overwhelming majority — 86% — of both consumers and non-consumers of RTD beverages agree that spirits-based RTDs should be sold where other RTD beverages are available for purchase.
  • Access is Limited from State to State: Currently, 47 states allow grocery stores to sell malt-based RTDs, but 16 of those states prohibit the sale of similar RTD products that are spirits-based.
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