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Competition Heats Up In Booming Spirits-Based RTD Space

June 29, 2022

Todd Randall, the president of Randall’s Wines & Spirits in Fairview Heights, Illinois, believes the next few months will be telling for spirits-based, ready-to-drink cocktails. “I think this summer will tell us how big this market will be based on how much customers embrace or don’t embrace spirits-based RTDs compared to seltzers,” he says.

For now, Randall says his store is “embracing the variety of the selection and letting customers have more options,” a move that can be overwhelming for retailers. The number of new spirits-based RTDs launched in the past five years is astonishing, and along with new brands there is a constant churn of new flavors from existing brands, making for a crowded and sometimes daunting marketplace.

That said, some retailers are enthusiastic about the plethora of options. “I don’t feel overloaded with this category and abundance of brands and flavors,” says Kent Starr, owner of Liquor World in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “It’s hard to say what too many brands is. What will the next hot brand be?”

Tobin Sharp, creative director at Costa Mesa, California-based Hi-Time Wine Cellars, says his store has had to reorganize to accommodate all the new entrants. “There may be too many brands but the market ultimately will decide that,” he says. “We try to carry all that we can.”

Popular brands at Hi-Time include Ketel One Spritz ($14 a 4-pack of 355-ml. cans), Juneshine Spirits ($12 a 4-pack of 12 oz. cans), and Cutwater Spirits ($11). Sharp adds that customers are also showing interest in some higher-priced RTD options. “High West’s offerings—Old Fashioned Barrel Finished Cocktail and Manhattan Barrel Finished Cocktail (both $37 a 750-ml.)—definitely have some fans in our store,” he says. “The Knob Creek On The Rocks Old Fashioned ($12 a 375-ml.) has also been received favorably.”

Cheers Liquor Mart in Colorado Springs, Colorado had to reset store shelves, too. “We’re in a bit of overload but we have made more room because of their popularity,” says owner Jack Backman. “We’re starting to phase out older brands that aren’t selling. We pride ourselves on variety so new brands are welcome in most cases.” However, a shakeout is occurring. “Name brands like Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Jack Daniel’s, Bacardi, and Crown Royal are doing the best,” he notes. “Off-brands that started the trend are now struggling.” Market Watch has the full story.—Carol Ward

Pre-Packaged Cocktails*—Leading Brands in the U.S.
(thousands of 9-liter cases)
Brand Company 2020 2021 Percent
High Noon Sun Sips Spirit of Gallo 2,950 8,835 +
Jose Cuervo Margaritas2 Proximo Spirits 3,338 3,020 -9.5%
Cutwater Cutwater Spirits (ABI) 705 1,975 +
Monaco Atomic Brands 1,522 1,910 25.5%
1800 Ultimate Margarita Proximo Spirits 973 1,245 28.0%
Devils Backbone Devils Backbone 175 1,050 +
Crown Royal Diageo NA 30 975 +
Bacardi3 Bacardi USA 583 871 49.3%
Total Leading Brands 10,276 19,881 93.5%
*Low proof, ready-to-drink spirits
1 Based on unrounded data
2 Includes Authentic and Golden
3 Includes ready-to-drink and ready-to-serve
Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2022
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