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Spirits-Based RTDs, Part 2: Competition Heating Up

November 29, 2022

With spirits-based RTDs set to approach the 40-million-case mark in the U.S. this year, according to Impact Databank, it’s not only the top of the leaderboard that’s contributing to growth. A mix of established spirits brands and newer standalone labels are likewise driving impressive gains.

Among the major brand offshoots, Pernod Ricard’s Absolut Cans RTDs surpassed 300,000 cases last year and have risen more than 100% in control states so far this year. The Pernod RTD contingent—also including canned concoctions from Jameson, Malibu, Kahlúa, and TX—is set to get a further boost with the drinks giant’s recent $22 million investment in a dedicated canning line at its plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas. “The high-speed canning line will be instrumental in increasing our production capabilities and swiftly bringing our premium, bar-quality RTDs to market,” said Pierre Joncourt, senior vice president, Pernod Ricard North America.

Also in the vodka-based category, Constellation’s Svedka RTDs topped 100,000 cases in 2021 and are up nearly 80% in NABCA channels year-to-date. Diageo-owned Ketel One saw its RTD lineup soar to 400,000 cases last year, but it has slowed some this year, registering mid-single-digit control state growth. Portfoliomate Tanqueray, however, is tracking at more than double its 2021 volume in control states, after hitting 155,000 cases last year. And in whiskey, Jack Daniel’s RTDs doubled to 260,000 cases last year and are up nearly 140% in year-to-date NABCA data.

Standalone RTD brands like The Finnish Long Drink, Two Chicks, Onda, and ZingZang are also making their presences felt. The Finnish Long Drink approached a half-million cases last year, and the brand’s volume is up more than 150% in Nielsen channels in the 52 weeks through October 8. Two Chicks has expanded by more than 50% in control states this year, from a 2021 volume base of 325,000 cases. ZingZang’s namesake parent company is best known for mixers, but its RTD range is now a contender in its own right, rising nearly 90% in NABCA in 2022 after jumping out to 128,000 cases overall last year.

Brands specializing in Tequila sodas are also on the move. Onda, chaired by industry veteran Jim Clerkin, is projected to reach 260,000 cases this year and is targeting 400,000 cases in 2023. “RTDs like Onda,” Clerkin told this fall’s Impact Seminar, “are bringing spirits into new occasions” previously dominated by beer. Proximo Spirits’ Playamar seltzer is likewise Tequila-based, with volume hitting 100,000 cases last year and increasing 12% in control states so far in 2022. Other brands including Cazadores RTDs, Canteen, and Fishers Island Lemonade also continue to rise in the rapidly expandding spirits-based RTD segment.

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