The booming category of ready-to-drink (RTD) canned cocktails is giving brands a delicious recipe for summer success, particularly as many consumers want the convenience of purchasing ready-made cocktails without needing to buy separate ingredients.

Following the pandemic and the astronomical rise in at-home consumption, RTD cocktails have grown 43% in global consumption, with no signs of slowing down, states an International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR) drinks market analysis. In fact, the trend is expected to grow by 21.8% until 2024, it reports.

IWSR also notes that the RTD sector was the only category to see volume growth in 2020, and it predicts the same in 2021. Largely driven by strong performance in the United States — the largest RTD market in the world by volume — the RTD segment will see volume growth of 43%, IWSR predicts. The low- and no-alcohol segment will continue to resonate with consumers, it adds.


RTD mixed variety pack
Cayman Jack’s new RTD mixed variety pack features classic cocktails like the 5.8% ABV Margarita, Moscow Mule, Mojito and the new Paloma.
(Image courtesy of Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co.)


Yet, the aroma, taste and flavor and slightly higher ABV (5.8%) of the 12-ounce RTD canned cocktails that I sampled during a May 21 virtual tasting with Cayman Jack, a brand of Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co., resonated with me as delicious, tried-and-true cocktails that required no work on my part.

Boozist and bartender enthusiast Colin Joliat, creator of the social website, walked me through the sampling process. He explained the tasting notes and nuances of four bartender-quality cocktails from Cayman Jack — Margarita, Moscow Mule, Cuban Mojito and Paloma — that are part of the brand’s new 12-can variety pack.

Cayman Jack’s newest varietal, Paloma, features an aroma of ruby grapefruit with hints of lime that balances the tartness of the grapefruit, lime and the pure sugar and agave nectar with an authentic tequila taste, Joliat explains. To further entice consumers, Paloma is only available as part of the brand’s variety pack that retails nationwide for around $17.99.

Since launching in 2011, Cayman Jack sales have seen steady growth, with the brand experiencing double-digit 99% growth in 2020 versus 2019, and the company is predicting strong growth this year, it says.

The flavored malt beverages (FMBs)/seltzer segment continues to outperform all other segments with a reading of 82, a few points below May 2020 reading of 90, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index for May 2021. The May 2021 overall reading of 80 is significantly higher than last May's reading of 64, it reports.

The "at-risk" inventory (inventory at risk of going out of code in the next 30 days) measure of 31 continues to remain well below the long-running average as out-of-stocks and supply disruptions continue to impact the industry.

In a statement, NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones explains: "This month’s survey cycles the May 2020 survey, a month that saw dramatic shifts in consumer behavior as the on-premise beer business was at a virtual standstill and off-premise business was booming. This index is the strongest reading over the past five surveys going back to 2015.”

RTD cocktails are surging in popularity. The online alcohol platform Drizly notes the convenience and ease of RTD cocktails have made it a breakout category. Although these spirits-based beverages make up a relatively small percentage of overall category share — accounting for just 3% of the total liquor category in 2020 — it is the fastest-growing liquor subcategory on Drizly, showing immense growth of more than 1,000% in 2020 over 2019, according to BevAlc Insights by Drizly.

“As bars and restaurants closed last year, many consumers turned to making their favorite cocktails at home or trying ready-to-drink versions,” said Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights, in a statement.

And although there’s a lot of innovation occurring within the RTD category, classic cocktails tend to dominate best-selling RTD flavors, suggesting that consumers are eager to experience full-flavor cocktails at home without mixing and measuring, Drizly reports.

The Top 5 RTD flavors across Drizly showcase the diversity of this growing category, which can offer significant opportunities for well-stocked retailers, it says. As summer months and outdoor sipping are finally here, the Top 5 RTD flavors poised to drive sales on Drizly this summer are vodka-soda/vodka-based, Margarita, the rum-based Mai Tai, gin and tonic/gin-based and the Old-Fashioned.

Summer’s here, so sit back, relax and pop open a cocktail of your choosing.