Pre-mix cocktails boost RTD sector

11 June, 2010

New Nielsen stats show the RTD sector is firmly back in growth – but vodka seems to have hit a plateau after years of explosive sales increases.

The figures, for the year to April 17, show the off-trade RTD market is now worth £206 million – still way off the £400 million peak it hit earlier in the decade, but 3% up on last year as on-trade sales declined.

Vodka sales rose 5% but volumes were flat and the total market declined 1%. The category is worth £889 million in the take-home sector, comfortably ahead of its nearest rival, blended Scotch, which saw sales of £799 million over the period, up 3% on the previous year.

Vanessa Pearson, spirits and RTDs buyer at Sainsbury’s, said: “Traditional RTDs are seeing a general decline in the marketplace. The category is being supported by the growth of pre-mix cocktails which are in double-digit growth.

“These products build on bar-call drinks and are very convenient for customers to deliver both the right serve and proportions, and for on-the-go purchases at train stations and outside events.”?Debs Carter, marketing director for Beverage Brands’ WKD, which claims a 30% value share of the RTD market in the off-trade, agreed that “a lot of the growth has come from drinks such as Jim Beam & Cola in a can, and also Crabbie’s ginger beer”.

But she said established major brands were also seeing sales success. “Clearly when we do well – and we have been doing well – then the category does well,” she added.

“In the past six months, Smirnoff Ice has also had a good run, which is great news. A vibrant category is a good category for us.”?Carter said figures for the year to May showed RTD value had increased further – to 5%.

Pearson dismissed the suggestion that the vodka boom was over. She said: “This is certainly not a trend we are experiencing.” She added that if the vodka category was experiencing overall decline, it could be linked to consumers switching spending from the on-trade to the off-trade, where prices are lower.

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