Following the growth trend in spirits and the rise of cocktail culture, mixers used in the preparation of cocktails and mixed drinks in restaurants and bars are on a solid growth trajectory, according to the “On-Premise Bar Mixer Marketplace” report by Chicago-based Technomic.

The market research firm defines the mixer category as non-alcohol beverage ingredients used in spirits-based mixed drinks and cocktails, including prepared mixes, juices, carbonated soft drinks, syrups/flavorings, purees, tonic waters and energy drinks. Mixers reached 130 million finished gallons in 2012, which is a 2.5 percent increase compared with 2011, and the category is expected to continue on a steady growth trend in 2013 and 2014, according to the report.

"Several factors are supporting the growth of mixers in the on-premise channel," said Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic, in a statement."The continued growth of spirits and cocktails in bars and restaurants, combined with flavor and product innovation on the part of mixer suppliers, is creating momentum in the category. And consumers are increasingly interested in the mixers used in their drinks."

One-third of consumers say they pay more attention to mixers when ordering drinks at bars and restaurants now than they did two years ago, according to the report. Young adult consumers are the most involved with this trend with 45 percent of millennials reporting that they are paying more attention to the mixers used in drinks today. In addition, 85 percent of bartenders surveyed reported that their guests are more interested in the mixer component of their drinks.

Flavor is the mixer attribute of most interest to consumers and is an important area of product innovation among leading mixer suppliers, Technomic reports. Strawberry, lime, exotic fruits, sweet-spicy and other blends are among the trending flavors, it says. Brand name also is important to consumers, particularly for drinks mixing spirits and carbonated soft drinks (CSDs), such as rum and cola. Three-quarters of consumers specify their preferred CSD brand when ordering these mixed drinks, the report finds.

"Following a 5.6 percent increase in sales in the on-premise channel in 2012, spirits are projected to continue growing in dollars and volume in restaurants, bars, lounges, nightclubs and other on-premise locations," Crecca said in a statement. "The cocktail culture is now well-established, and millennials are very much engaged in it, driving trends in new drinks and flavors. As a result, the vibrant and diverse mixer market is expected to enjoy ongoing expansion."