How to make the RTD cocktail trend work for you

24 November 2021, 09:28 AM
  • The number of canned cocktails and G&Ts bought from supermarkets and stores surged last year. With the right stock, this is happy hour for profits, says Sally-Jayne Wright
How to make the RTD cocktail trend work for you

What’s new for Christmas?

Gift bottles of pre-mix. In September, Marks & Spencer launched The Marksologist brand. For £18, shoppers can buy a 50cl bottle of Golden Negroni. Aldi so rates the cocktail trend they’re offering espresso martini-flavoured Wensleydale for cheeseboards.

Is our enthusiasm for mixing lockdown ‘quarantinis’ behind the cocktails trend?

Partly. In lockdown, cocktail-making became both solace and pastime. We liked smaller formats because we could pocket cans for picnics; and online retailers such as Lockdown Liquor & Co – launched April 2020 – got us used to quality bottled cocktails for group Zoom meetings.

I find pre-mixes easier, cheaper and quicker than juggling 19 different bottles in the cupboard.

We agree. Hilary Whitney, co-founder of Sacred Spirits, the company which beat Campari by a year in launching a pre-mixed Negroni, says it not only saves bar staff and home consumers time, it guarantees consistency and quality. She adds, “It’s a great alternative to wine to take to a party.” Sacred Spirit’s new Dry Martini launched in October and there’s a ready-mixed Gimlet planned.

Why are there so many sweet, fruity cocktails?

“Escapism,” explains drinks flavour guru, Pritesh Mody of World of Zing. “They’re seen as holiday cocktails you enjoy on a beach. Cocktails are about indulgence which is why the sweeter Pornstar and Espresso martini continue to grow [in popularity].”

Sorry, what’s a Pornstar Martini?

Also known as a Passion fruit martini, it comprises vodka, passion fruit liqueur, lime juice, prosecco and fresh passion fruit.

But customers have become sugar, calorie and alcohol conscious, haven’t they?

Yes, and one advantage of small cans and bottles is portion control.

What can I offer teetotal customers?

Belvoir has a new non-alcoholic Peach Bellini or how about Square Root’s 200ml bottles of alcohol-free Negroni Spritz, mojitos and G&Ts. Sold at Fortnum & Mason, the canned Virgin Mary by Longbottom & Co would enhance any brunch table or try Bloody Ben’s Bloody Mary Mix, which can be adapted for drinkers and non-drinkers alike.

Whose full-fat cocktails do you like?

We loved the genuinely pocket-sized, 100ml Pocket Negroni made by Edinburgh-based newcomer Whitebox Drinks. The can tells you just how many units you’re imbibing – 2.1 – and there’s warning not to exceed 14 units a week.

Any other favourites?

Sold at Liberty and The Conran Store, Lockdown Liquor & Co’s range of cocktails in 200ml bottles include the Picante – a bracing mix of tequila, lime, chilli and Agave nectar. The packaging is modern, and the owners are exploring refillables, a plus point for conscious consumers.

How can we make this trend work for us?

• Just as packs of two or three chocolates are portion-controlled treats, so are pocket-sized cocktails. Position them with your impulse buys near the till.
• Drinks call for snacks and ice. So upsell truffle crisps and hickory-smoked nuts. Display Bloody Marys with brunch goods.
• If you have freezer capacity, stock ice – easy and profitable.
• In October, Trend Watch’s local Rason’s store was selling 2kg bags of Eskimo ice for £2.99.
• Know your customer. It’s pointless offering ‘vibrantly vegan’ mocktails if your core customer is 60-plus and likes to taste their gin.
• Looks matter. Three-fifths of Millennials want drinks that look good for Instagram (Franklin & Sons survey, 2020).

What are the trends within the trend?

Bar staff report that after lockdowns, consumers returned to bars more knowledgeable about what to order and with a tendency to drink ‘less but better’. Experts think low ABV drinks will continue to trend which explains a rise in demand for highball cocktails or ‘short drinks served tall’. Mindful drinking will be key. Look out also for functional, non-alcoholic wellness beverages with cocktail flavours, such as those offered by Crave Drinks.

Will consumers continue to be stirred and shaken?

We think they will. Former cocktail columnist, Polly Vernon, declared in The Times that cocktails are ‘a liquid expression of a tentative return of consumer confidence’. Cheers to that.

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