THE BOOZE BIN
By Laura Petrosky (@aushunmon)
During a recent trip to New Orleans, I stopped by the famous Hotel Monteleone and its Carousel Bar, a worshipped destination amongst cocktail enthusiasts. After browsing through a dozen pages of delicious cocktail concoctions, I ordered a Ramos Gin Fizz and watched the bartender as he beat an egg white, squeezed a lemon and a lime, combined gin, simple syrup, orange flower water, vanilla and half and half, before shaking everything vigorously and topping it off with club soda. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
Back home, I visited my local liquor store to pick up a bottle of vodka when my gaze fell on a big bottle of Bacardi “Classic Cocktails Hand Shaken Daiquiri,” a ready-to-serve bottled cocktail on sale. Curious, I browsed the store for other pre-made cocktails, and found plenty: Pre-bottled Mai Thais, Hurricanes, Zombies and Pina Coladas from Bacardi, Mojitos from Parrot Bay and Smirnoff, Margaritas from TGI Friday’s and Jose Cuervo, and Sangrias and White Cranberry Cosmos from Skinny Girl. Did I miss a memo that mixing your own drinks is over? Apparently, I did.
Bottled cocktails represent a market of approximately 50 million cases per year, according to Beverage Dynamics. There are two distinctive types of products in this market. “Ready to drink” products represent 43 million cases and are single-serve, malt-based brands such as Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. “Ready to serve” products are spirits-based and packaged for multiple-servings, such as Bacardi Classic Cocktails or TGI Friday’s Margaritas, and make up 6.5 million cases per year. The Margarita is by the far the best-selling bottled cocktail in the U.S., followed by the Cosmopolitan. The average consumer is female and between 25 and 40 years old.
The slogan for Margaritaville cocktails, “Make Friends, Not Drinks,” neatly sums up the appeal of pre-made cocktails: Convenience. This is particularly helpful for anyone to prepare at home difficult cocktails like Margaritas, Daiquiris or Long Island Ice Teas that require a lot of ingredients. The reasons why beverage brands love bottled cocktails are easy to guess: Not only does it give them an opportunity to showcase the versatility and mixability of a certain spirit, but it also ensures the integrity and quality of the cocktail. With a premade product, you don’t have to worry about the skills or costly ingredients of a bartender.
Looking into the “ready to serve” product industry, I made some notes on how brands were making their product successful. Here are three marketing tips for the “drinks on the go” market:
- Premium is King: Sales show that consumers are seeking out bottled cocktails from higher-end brands with higher-end ingredients. While their cocktails are not made-to-order, they still expect products that come close to “live cocktails.” Emphasize high-quality ingredients in your marketing materials. If you are an on-premise business, explore making your own small-batch bottled cocktails or experiment with cocktails on tap to ensure consistent quality of your business’ signature cocktails.
- Year-round Appeal: Invest in a cocktail that doesn’t hold its only appeal during the summer months or winter holiday season, but will stay interesting for consumers during the “off-months.” Make sure you follow a holistic marketing approach. If you are launching a bottled Cosmopolitan product, don’t forget to invest in an on-premise push for the same cocktail.
- Innovate, innovate, innovate: According to industry experts, one of the defining characteristics of the prepared-cocktail market is that new products are always introduced. Innovation and newness are vital for success in this market, so watch out for sustainable trends. Whether it’s a new flavor (remember the sweet tea trend?), packaging innovation (quick-chill squeezable pouches are the latest craze) or completely new product entry, marketers in the bottled cocktails business have to constantly be on their toes for new trends that promise to last for at least another season. On the heels of Skinny Girl, Bacardi just introduced its first low-calorie line.
I am not sure who has the time to make a Ramos Gin Fizz on a daily basis, so I’m willing to consider a bottled cocktail every once in a while. But as an amateur bartender, I am not quite ready to retire my cocktail shaker for good. I’ll go for a happy medium of hand-shaken and pre-bottled! What about you?