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Premixed Cocktail Category Rises In Prominence

July 20, 2012

Propelled by the advent of fresh flavors, natural ingredients and low calorie content, premixed cocktails are enjoying rising prominence in the U.S. market. The category experienced strong growth last year, with some new brands posting explosive numbers.

In all, the spirits-based premixed cocktail category (separate from malt-based RTDs) grew 6% to 6.8 million nine-liter cases last year, according to Impact Databank. This advance occurred even though six of the top 10 brands decreased. The growth was primarily driven by Skinnygirl, a Beam Inc. acquisition last year from celebrity Bethenny Frankel. The brand ranked fourth by depletions in 2011 as it increased by nearly 500,000 cases to 585,000 nine-liter cases. “Skinnygirl has opened up an entire new category for Beam by having a brand that directly targets women and low-calorie,” says Melanie Hellenga, marketing director, Skinnygirl.

While Skinnygirl has generated much excitement, Diageo dominates the category with six of the top 10 brands. Diageo’s portfolio includes the top three brands by depletions—Jose Cuervo Authentic Margaritas, Jose Cuervo Golden Margarita and T.G.I. Friday’s—and brands ranked seventh through ninth, respectively: The Club, Smirnoff Cocktails Collection and Captain Morgan Long Island Iced Tea. In all, Diageo has a 43% category share and continues to invest in brand extensions, significant marketing support and new packaging. “We expect that the category will continue to evolve,” says Ami-Lynn Bakshi, Diageo vice president, marketing, Jose Cuervo. “Premixed cocktail brands will continue to innovate in flavors, types and delivery systems.”

Among all spirits categories, premixed cocktails have the highest percentage of female drinkers at around two-thirds. Marketers have aggressively targeted the female demographic while touting prepared cocktails as an alternative to beer and wine for those who are entertaining at home or hosting a leisure-time event. “Skinnygirl Cocktails are all about breaking the rules and empowering women, and we’ll continue to do so with each new innovation we roll out this year,” Hellenga says.

In May, Beam extended the Skinnygirl premixed cocktail line with Piña Colada. The offering is a cream-free low-calorie alternative to the typically thick tropical cocktail that can reach a whopping 800 calories per serving. “Skinnygirl Piña Colada is one of our most groundbreaking offerings yet, with less than 100 calories per 4-ounce serving and the same great taste,” says Hellenga. “Women want to enjoy their cocktails without feeling guilty or worrying about the calories.”

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