- New Nielsen research shows consumers are looking to retailers to provide more ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, including cocktails, hard seltzer and hard kombucha. Malt-based cocktail sales, for example, are up 574% from a year ago.
- Convenience is a major driver, a separate Nielsen study revealed, with 55.2% of consumers stating it was an easy way to enjoy a cocktail without needing a mixologist. That reasoning has led manufacturers to offer more packaging options, with cans, boxes, Tetra Pak containers and others helping to provide more portability.
- According to the data, the growth of the RTD alcoholic beverages has also expanded the number of flavors offered. The report showed the 66.2% of shoppers chose "assorted flavors" as their top pick for hard seltzer, pointing to a greater interest in variety versus more typical berry or tropical tastes.
Nielsen's studies show that the RTD alcoholic beverage segment is heating up with the weather. While hard seltzer and hard kombucha are typically smaller segments, their triple digit growth show a promising trend drink makers are likely to tap into. Sales of hard kombucha was up 247.3% from last year, while hard seltzer saw a 193% increase.
As packaging and flavor options increase, consumers may turn to RTD products as a convenient way to cart drinks along on their summertime adventures, from barbecues and beaches to road trips and vacations. What containers drinks come in could play a role in sales. Canned wine is surging, Nielsen said, and now generates more than $81 million in annual sales compared to about $46 million a year ago. Craft beer sales are also looking up, with cans making up more than 36% of dollar sales in the category.
The positive growth doesn't translate to all beverages. While RTD alcoholic drink sales are booming right now, total dollar sales for snacks and nonalcoholic beverages grew only 1.3% for the month ending May 18, according to Nielsen data analyzed by Wells Fargo Securities. Heavyweights Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper experienced slides in total beverage sales for that period.
On the other hand, energy drinks continue to do well, but the segment may be starting to slow. Nielsen said dollar sales in the category increased 8.9% for the month ending May 18, although they were up 10.7% for the previous 12 weeks. Red Bull, Java Monster and the new Reign product all showed growth, with the latter having a strong product debut, Nielsen reported. Given the caffeine jolt energy drinks provide, their appeal isn't likely to slump anytime soon and could even surpass soda if current sales trends continue.
While consumer preference for beverages like hard seltzer and hard kombucha may be just a fad, the desire for convenience isn't going away. The market for RTD alcoholic beverages — no matter the style — is likely to keep growing as manufacturers and retailers continue expanding their options.