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US RTD Alcoholic Beverages market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the RTD Alcoholic Beverages market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

This report covers on- and off-premise sales of RTD premade alcoholic beverages, including:

  • Flavored malt beverages – includes prepared malt beverages such as Bud Light Lime-a-Rita.
  • Wine coolers – made with wine combined with fruit juices and other sweeteners.
  • Prepared spirits-based cocktails – drinks such as Bacardi Classic Cocktails Mojito that are made with distilled spirits.

This report excludes non-alcoholic mixers typically added to alcohol to make alcoholic cocktails and mixed drinks, such as “Just add alcohol” mixes and non-alcoholic mixers.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Beth Bloom, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

RTD (ready-to-drink) alcoholic beverages continue to be an “also drink” alcohol type, trailing behind beer, wine, and spirits in consumption and volume sales. However the category, which includes FMBs (flavored malt beverages), prepared spirits-based cocktails, and wine coolers has seen recent strong innovation, moving it further away from the cloying alcopop realm and toward a more acceptable option that offers versatile flavors and formats for a wider array of occasions. While a general slowdown in alcohol consumption and sales challenges the category, the nimble nature of the smaller market has allowed for the launch of products that appeal to health-conscious consumers, convenience seekers, and beyond. Beth Bloom
Associate Director - Food & Drink

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • The issues
          • Volume sales of alcohol stagnate
            • Figure 1: US volume sales of beverage alcohol, by channel, 2013-17
          • RTDs are secondary to other alcoholic beverages
            • Figure 2: Alcohol consumption, September 2018
          • RTDs lack a strong identity
            • Figure 3: Attribute perception, flavored alcoholic beverages vs alcohol (excluding flavored alcoholic beverages), January 2017-October 2018
          • The opportunities
            • Convenience is a win for RTD alcoholic beverages
              • Figure 4: Reasons for consuming RTD alcoholic beverages, September 2018
            • It’s all about flavor
              • Figure 5: RTD alcoholic beverage purchase drivers, September 2018
            • Consumers want versatility
              • Figure 6: Ideal RTD alcoholic beverage, September 2018
            • What it means
            • The Market – What You Need to Know

              • FMB sales grow 20% from 2013-18
                • Prepared spirits-based cocktails projected to climb out of the hole
                  • Volume sales of alcohol stagnate
                    • RTDs are an “also drink,” but gaining firmer ground
                    • Market Size and Forecast

                      • FMB sales grow 20% from 2013-18
                        • Figure 7: Total US volume sales and forecast of flavored malt beverages, 2013-23
                        • Figure 8: Total US volume sales and forecast of flavored malt beverages, 2013-23
                      • Prepared spirits-based cocktails projected to climb back out of the hole
                        • Figure 9: Total US volume sales and forecast of prepared spirits-based cocktails, 2013-23
                        • Figure 10: Total US volume sales and forecast of prepared spirits-based cocktails, 2013-23
                      • Wine coolers continue their slide
                        • Figure 11: Total US volume sales and forecast of wine coolers, 2013-23
                        • Figure 12: Total US volume sales and forecast of wine coolers, 2013-23
                    • Market Perspective

                      • Volume sales of alcohol stagnate
                        • Figure 13: US volume sales of beverage alcohol, by channel, 2013-17
                      • Beer continues to lead alcohol consumption
                        • Figure 14: Alcohol consumption, September 2018
                      • Champagne/sparkling wine and spirits drinkers are most likely to drink RTD alcoholic beverages
                        • Figure 15: RTD alcoholic beverage consumption, by alcohol consumption, September 2018
                      • RTDs need a stronger identity
                        • Figure 16: Alcohol consumption by occasion, correspondence analysis, September 2018
                        • Figure 17: Alcohol consumption by occasion, correspondence analysis, September 2018
                      • …score high for taste and refreshment, but trail behind alcohol in natural positioning
                        • Figure 18: Attribute perception, flavored alcoholic beverages vs alcohol (excluding flavored alcoholic beverages), January 2017-October 2018
                      • RTDs grow share of alcohol launches
                        • RTDs can look to cocktail trends for flavor innovation
                          • Figure 19: Leading cocktails on menu, Q3 2014-Q3 2018
                          • Figure 20: Fastest growing cocktails on menu, Q3 2014-Q3 2018
                        • Legalization of recreational cannabis can challenge alcohol
                          • Figure 21: Cannabis statements – Alcohol, June 2018
                      • Market Factors

                        • Strong consumer confidence benefits discretionary categories
                          • Figure 22: Consumer sentiment index, January 2007-September 2018
                        • An aging population will impact alcohol categories
                          • Figure 23: Population by age, 2013-23
                        • RTDs brands should consider meeting consumers at home
                        • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                          • Seltzers drive strong MULO growth in 2018
                            • Prepared cocktails and wine coolers carry the most health-related claims
                              • Sea change in RTD packaging seen from 2014-18
                                • All segments could use flavor innovation
                                • Company and Brand Sales of RTD Alcoholic Beverages

                                    • Seltzers drive strong MULO growth in 2018
                                      • White Claw takes the top spot
                                        • Truly takes aim at other alcohol competitors
                                          • SpikedSeltzer benefits from A-B InBev reach
                                            • Alcoholic seltzers keep popping up
                                              • Tequila-based prepared cocktails are also strong movers
                                                • Figure 24: Multi-outlet sales of premixed cocktails/coolers, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2017 and 2018
                                            • What’s Working?

                                              • Health-related claims, positioning breathing life into the category
                                                • Figure 25: Share of RTD alcohol beverage launches, by leading claims, 2014-18*
                                              • Sea change in RTD packaging seen from 2014-18
                                                • Figure 26: Share of RTD alcohol beverage launches, by leading pack types, 2014-18*
                                            • What’s Struggling?

                                              • FMB launches outpaced by other segments
                                                • Figure 27: Share of RTD alcohol beverage launches, by segment, 2014-18*
                                              • Hard soda bubble bursts
                                                • All segments could use flavor innovation
                                                  • Figure 28: Share of RTD alcohol beverage launches, by leading flavors, 2014-18*
                                                  • Figure 29: Cooler flavors consumed, 2014-18*
                                              • What’s Next?

                                                • Time for craft
                                                  • Options for the health-conscious consumer
                                                    • RTDs for breakfast
                                                    • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                      • FMBs lead RTD alcoholic beverage consumption
                                                        • Convenience is a win for RTD alcoholic beverages
                                                          • It’s all about flavor
                                                            • Consumers want versatility
                                                              • Low sugar represents health
                                                                • 61% of consumers are interested in trying low alcohol options
                                                                • RTD Alcoholic Beverage Consumption

                                                                  • FMBs lead RTD alcoholic beverage consumption
                                                                    • Figure 30: RTD alcoholic beverage consumption, September 2018
                                                                  • Women prefer premixed cocktails and wine coolers
                                                                    • Figure 31: RTD alcoholic beverage consumption, by gender, September 2018
                                                                  • Under 45s are the strongest targets for RTD alcoholic beverages
                                                                    • Figure 32: RTD alcoholic beverage consumption, by age, September 2018
                                                                  • Half of Hispanics drink RTDs
                                                                    • Figure 33: RTD alcoholic beverage consumption, by Hispanic origin, September 2018
                                                                  • Black consumers are more likely than average to drink RTDs
                                                                    • Figure 34: RTD alcoholic beverage consumption, by race, September 2018
                                                                  • Middle-income households are target for RTDs
                                                                    • Figure 35: RTD alcoholic beverage consumption, by HH income, September 2018
                                                                • Reasons for Consuming RTD Alcoholic Beverages

                                                                  • Convenience is a win for RTD alcoholic beverages
                                                                    • Figure 36: Reasons for consuming RTD alcoholic beverages, September 2018
                                                                  • Engaged users are drawn to taste/flavor
                                                                    • Figure 37: Reasons for consuming RTD alcoholic beverages, by RTD consumption (Net*), September 2018
                                                                  • Convenience is a particular draw among women
                                                                    • Figure 38: Reasons for consuming RTD alcoholic beverages, by gender, September 2018
                                                                  • RTD consumption among higher earning households may be more occasional
                                                                    • Figure 39: Reasons for consuming RTD alcoholic beverages, by HH income, September 2018
                                                                  • Convenience is a particular draw among older consumers
                                                                    • Figure 40: Reasons for consuming RTD alcoholic beverages, by age, September 2018
                                                                  • Not all RTDs are created equal
                                                                    • Prepared spirits-based cocktails excel for ease of preparation
                                                                      • Seltzer drinkers like a casual option that’s on the healthier side
                                                                        • Alcohol tea delivers on taste
                                                                          • Figure 41: Reasons for consuming RTD alcoholic beverages, by RTD consumption, September 2018
                                                                      • Important Factors in RTD Alcoholic Beverage Choice

                                                                        • It’s all about flavor
                                                                          • Figure 42: RTD alcoholic beverage purchase drivers, September 2018
                                                                        • Keep price in mind in appeal to younger consumers
                                                                          • Figure 43: RTD alcoholic beverage purchase drivers, by age, September 2018
                                                                        • Important factors vary slightly depending on RTD type consumed
                                                                          • Flavor is key for FMBs/alcoholic tea
                                                                            • Brand stands out among prepared cocktail drinkers
                                                                              • Pricing promotion can drive alcohol soda drinkers to purchase
                                                                                • Alcoholic seltzer drinkers have an above-average interest in natural ingredients
                                                                                  • Figure 44: RTD alcoholic beverage purchase drivers, September 2018
                                                                              • Ideal RTD Alcoholic Beverage

                                                                                • Consumers want versatility
                                                                                  • Figure 45: Ideal RTD alcoholic beverage, September 2018
                                                                                • Younger drinkers are more likely than older respondents to want healthy RTD options
                                                                                  • Figure 46: Ideal RTD alcoholic beverage, by age, September 2018
                                                                                • Hispanics are most likely to be interested in options for home drinking
                                                                                  • Figure 47: Ideal RTD alcoholic beverage, by Hispanic origin, September 2018
                                                                                • Lower earners seek versatility
                                                                                  • Figure 48: RTD alcoholic beverage purchase drivers, by HH income, September 2018
                                                                                • Health-focused RTDs positioned for backyard gatherings would find wide appeal
                                                                                  • Figure 49: TURF Analysis – Description of ideal RTD alcoholic beverages, September 2018
                                                                                  • Figure 50: Table – TURF Analysis – Description of ideal RTD alcoholic beverages, September 2018
                                                                                • Half of wine cooler drinkers want products for outdoor events
                                                                                  • Figure 51: RTD alcoholic beverage purchase drivers, by RTD consumption, September 2018
                                                                              • Alcoholic Beverage Health Innovation

                                                                                • Low sugar represents health
                                                                                  • Figure 52: Alcoholic beverage health innovation, September 2018
                                                                                • Younger drinkers are more open to health positioning
                                                                                  • Figure 53: Alcoholic beverage health innovation, by age, September 2018
                                                                                • Healthy RTD seekers can best be reached through nutritional information
                                                                                  • Figure 54: Alcoholic beverage health innovation, by ideal RTD alcoholic beverage – Healthy, September 2018
                                                                                • Low sugar/calories, clean labels, function combine for maximum health draw
                                                                                  • Figure 55: TURF Analysis – Alcoholic beverage health innovation, September 2018
                                                                                  • Figure 56: Table - TURF Analysis – Health innovation, September 2018
                                                                              • Alcoholic Beverage Innovation of Interest

                                                                                • Natural ingredients and low sugar lead innovation of interest
                                                                                  • Figure 57: Alcoholic beverage innovation of interest, September 2018
                                                                                • Growing adoption among women could come through innovation
                                                                                  • Figure 58: Alcoholic beverage innovation of interest, by gender, September 2018
                                                                                • Older drinkers are less likely to be interested in innovation
                                                                                  • Figure 59: Alcoholic beverage innovation of interest, by age, September 2018
                                                                                • RTDs can find the greatest appeal through innovation
                                                                                  • Figure 60: Alcoholic beverage innovation of interest, by alcohol consumption, September 2018
                                                                              • Low-Alcohol Offerings

                                                                                • 61% of consumers are interested in trying low-alcohol options
                                                                                  • Figure 61: Interest in low-alcohol options, September 2018
                                                                                • Low-alcohol more closely tied to responsibility than health/enjoyment
                                                                                  • Figure 62: Opinions toward low-alcohol options, September 2018
                                                                                • Women are better targets for low-alcohol options
                                                                                  • Figure 63: Interest in low-alcohol options, by gender, September 2018
                                                                                • Men don’t see value in low-alcohol options
                                                                                  • Figure 64: Opinions toward low-alcohol options, by gender, September 2018
                                                                                • Young drinkers are most likely to be engaged with low-alcohol options
                                                                                  • Figure 65: Interest in low-alcohol options, by age, September 2018
                                                                                • Young drinkers express interest in sessionability
                                                                                  • Figure 66: Opinions toward low-alcohol options, by age, September 2018
                                                                                • RTD drinkers are most engaged with low-alcohol options
                                                                                  • Figure 67: Interest in low-alcohol options, by alcohol consumption, September 2018
                                                                                • RTD drinkers have a generally higher opinion of low-alcohol versions
                                                                                  • Figure 68: Opinions toward low-alcohol options, by alcohol consumption, September 2018
                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                • Data sources
                                                                                  • Sales data
                                                                                    • Forecast
                                                                                      • Consumer survey data
                                                                                        • TURF methodology
                                                                                          • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                            • Abbreviations