Pre-mixed drinks

21 December, 2012

Spirit brands are finding the format has many benefits, not least the ability to transfer drinkers from pre-mixed into spirits proper. “Grant’s RTDs were launched as a recruitment vehicle to encourage younger buyers into a typically older category,” says Oliver Dickson, senior brand manager for Grant’s at First Drinks. “As a result, we have seen that, through trial of the RTDs, around 20% of buyers who had never bought Grant’s before have gone on to purchase the master brand, Grant’s Family Reserve.”

For many consumers, the convenience occasion is still the domain of the beer can. But by tapping into beer time, spirit brands can recruit new consumers. Enrique Comas, global brand manager at Bacardi picks up the point: “There are times when consumers are looking for something that retains the convenience of beer but delivers more sophistication.” Bacardi now sells its RTDs across 61 countries and five continents, with a range focused on “the most popular Bacardi rum drink combinations”.

Wrapped up in the concept of convenience is a lot of compromise, but brands still have to be careful their spin-offs are of the requisite quality. The choice of mixer can make or break a pre-mix. Some go branded – like Gordon’s & Schweppes – some buy it in, others create their own. 

Joanne Moore, master distiller at G&J Greenall Distillery – which offers Gin & Tonic, Gin & Diet Tonic, Gin & Grapefruit, Gin Fizz, Gin Sin and Gin & Bitter Lemon (Scandinavia only) – knows a bit about selecting mixers. “I go to a lot of time and effort to get the gin right so it’s important to match the mixer with the gin – just as a mixologist would. With pre-mixed drinks you have to make sure you keep it simple, keep it elegant. Certain flavours work in a can, such as natural citrus juice. A Mojito, for instance, does not work.” 

Naturally, some brands take a more pragmatic view, opting for cheaper synthetic flavours, but this is not good for the category, says Moore. “I always use natural flavours – but putting natural juice in products does make it more expensive. Synthetic colours and flavours derived from a laboratory are cheaper, and sugar is also more expensive than sodium saccharine and aspartame.”

And what about the tonic? To a G&T drinker, it can be as important as the gin itself. “Our tonic is bespoke – it’s not a copy of Schweppes or anything else,” says Moore. 

Brand enhancers

But wouldn’t having Schweppes or Fever Tree in the can enhance the brand? “A co-brand can make the consumer feel more comfortable, but I don’t think not having it harms the brand.” Moore, in fact, seems so happy with her tonic she doesn’t rule out Greenall’s launching it as a standalone brand. 

At Grant’s, where Cott supplies the cola, bubbles are key. “The carbonation of the Grant’s cola is higher than other brands, which is why in blind taste tests against key competition, Grant’s was ranked number one,” says Dickson. 

At Bacardi, mixers are made in-house by Bacardi Martini New Product Development in Jacksonville, in the US. “By developing the flavour profile for the cola mixer used to make Bacardi & Cola RTD in-house it is possible to adapt this flavour profile to meet the specific taste palates of the local market,” says Comas. 

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