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Important Stats on the Ready-to-Drink (RTD) Cocktails Market

Explore our analysis on the fast-growing RTD cocktails market. Learn about its potential and how to leverage it for your brand.

Ready-to-drink cocktails have gained massive popularity in recent years due to their convenience, portability, and accessibility. As both on-premise and off-premise sales continue to surge, more and more brands have started to pivot offerings to ride this ever-cresting wave of growth. We’ve compiled some key statistics on the RTD cocktails market so you can learn more about this growing trend.

Differentiating Between RTD Cocktails and Other RTD Beverages

The ready-to-drink category as a whole is enjoying tremendous growth, reaching $4.8 billion in sales since RTDs first made headlines (Nielsen). However, companies should note well that the success of RTD cocktails is not shared by other RTD beverages like malt-based seltzers. In 2022, the split between malt-based hard seltzers and RTD cocktails was 43.4% and 10.5% of the total market share, still a generous gap between the two beverage options. However, off-premise sales of malt-based hard seltzers were down 10% over the previous year. In contrast, off-premise spirits-based RTD sales were up by 54.7%, signaling that RTD cocktails could soon outpace hard seltzers in market share.

Off-Premise vs. On-Premise RTDs

Traditional alcohol sales tend to see on-premise sales leading the charge, but RTD cocktails have flipped that script. Since convenience is one of the main reasons why consumers choose RTD cocktails, it makes sense that the off-premise sales would be strong right out of the gate. 

Businesses are starting to catch on, however. In the hospitality industry, where stocking a full bar is all but impractical, RTD cocktails have gained a strong foothold. Airplanes, stadiums, theatres, and even small hotels have started stocking these beverages for the enjoyment of their customers–and it’s working. Almost 17% of consumers purchased an RTD cocktail while visiting a bar or restaurant in the summer of 2023, a number that’s sure to grow as more RTD options become available.

Who is Buying Ready-to-Drink Cocktails?

The younger generations are most drawn to RTD cocktails, with 84% of RTD drinkers under the age of 55. These individuals may be attracted to the trendy and innovative flavors available in the RTD market and appreciate the convenience and Instagram-worthy packaging. Existing companies that already market to millennial audiences have a strong foothold in the space, while new companies have a large target to aim for.

Within the younger demographic exists multiple subcategories that businesses can target and market towards. Here are some of the most common subgroups within the RTD cocktail demographic.

Convenience Seekers 

RTD cocktails are popular among individuals who value convenience and ease of consumption. They are often enjoyed by people who want a cocktail experience without the need for bartending skills or access to a fully stocked bar. These individuals may appreciate the portability and ready-to-consume nature of RTD cocktails.

Casual Drinkers

Ready-to-drink cocktails are appealing to casual drinkers who want to enjoy a cocktail without the hassle of purchasing various equipment and measuring multiple ingredients. They are suitable for individuals who want a quick and straightforward option for social occasions or relaxing at home.

Outdoor Enthusiasts

Outdoor enthusiasts love RTD cocktails, too. These beverages are often marketed as a convenient option for outdoor activities such as picnics, camping trips, beach outings, or barbecues. They offer a portable and easy-to-carry solution for those who want to enjoy a cocktail without lugging around all their bartending tools.

Cocktail Novices

RTD cocktails can be appealing to individuals who are new to cocktails or those who don't have the knowledge or interest in mixing their own drinks. The pre-mixed nature of RTD cocktails eliminates the need for measuring and experimenting with different ingredients, resulting in a consistently tasty cocktail every time.

Where Can RTD Cocktails Be Sold?

Companies can offer RTD cocktails on their own websites as well as in liquor stores, but what about grocery stores? 

In the U.S., the sale of alcohol is regulated at the state level, and each state has its own laws regarding the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Some states allow the sale of alcoholic beverages, including RTD cocktails, in grocery stores, while others restrict alcohol sales to specialized liquor stores or have specific limitations on where and how alcohol can be sold.

Additionally, even in states where the sale of alcohol is permitted in grocery stores, there may be restrictions on the alcohol content or licensing requirements for retailers. These regulations are in place to ensure responsible sales and prevent underage drinking.

Currently, spirit-based ready-to-drink cocktails with the same ABV or lower as wine and beer RTDs can only be sold in grocery stores in 31 states and in convenience stores in 29 states. States like Texas, Alabama, and California have particularly restrictive laws concerning spirit-based RTDs in grocery stores, limiting the availability of these beverages to liquor stores only.

For businesses located in states that restrict spirit-based RTD sales, strong local marketing strategies will be key. Incorporating a product locator on a brand website is a particularly effective strategy that helps consumers find RTDs near them, wherever they are.

Request a Product Locator demo from Grappos today →

Best Practices for Launching an RTD Cocktail Brand

Whether you’re an established spirits company or looking to launch a new RTD cocktail brand, follow these best practices to take advantage of the industry’s forward momentum.

Narrow Down Your Audience

The first thing to do when developing any type of brand or product is to identify your target audience. Conduct surveys and market research about your target audience to find out more about their buying habits and personalities. Are they outdoorsy types? Partygoers? Sophisticated homebodies?

Knowing who you’re creating the product for helps answer countless questions about the product itself, as well as who you’ll be as a brand. It’ll also help you identify which marketing channels to pursue that will give you the best return on investment. 

Build a Brand

Again, once you’ve identified your target audience, building a brand is much easier. Craft your brand around the personality of your audience. Choose packaging that resonates with your target consumer; for example, cans are better for consumers who want cocktails to take to the beach or a picnic, while glass bottles are best for consumers who want to enjoy a craft cocktail at home.

Create a Website

Every brand needs a website. A website is your best salesperson and your best marketing tool. Spend the time and resources to create a great e-commerce website for your RTD business by building out product pages, an about page, an FAQ page, and more so customers can learn about you and your products.

Develop a Marketing Strategy

Whether you’re a new or existing brand, you need to develop a marketing strategy to get the word out about your new product. While your website will do a great deal of heavy lifting, you need to plug into other channels in order to drive traffic and sales. Social media marketing is a great tool for RTD cocktails provided you follow the rules of the platform. Email and content marketing are also classic ways to engage with your audience, boost brand awareness, and drive traffic to your site.

Partner With a Reputable Distributor

The manufacturer-distributor relationship is vital to the success of any alcohol brand, RTD cocktails included. A reputable, well-established alcohol distributor will know the best retail locations for your product and will likely already have contacts within those spheres. They’ll also have an ear to the ground for any news regarding the sale of spirits-based RTDs in states like Texas, California, and others with restrictive laws.

Cheers to Convenience

The ready-to-drink cocktail market has great momentum and potential for new and existing brands alike. Don’t let success pass you by. Let this be a sign that the RTD cocktail market is ready for your brand and get started today. 

Grappos is here to partner with you while you get your idea off the ground. Our product locator is already a favorite of many beer, wine, and spirit brands. We help customers find your products so your business can thrive. 

Learn more about our product locator →

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Eric Kunisawa

Founder & CEO

Eric Kunisawa is the founder of Grappos. He's been successfully helping businesses connect customers with their products since 2008.

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