rtd cans

The rise of quality RTDs

17 February, 2022

To highlight Lawrence’s point, IWSC data suggests hard seltzers will remain the primary driver of volume increases, expected to account for half of all global RTD volumes by 2025. Though much growth is expected to come from the US, where hard seltzers are already well established, the IWSR predicts rapid growth in other markets – Canada (50% CAGR 2020-2025), the UK (90%), China (84%), and Australia (24%). 

“Hard seltzer volumes outside the US are small, but awareness is also low. As that awareness grows, we’re seeing that people are increasingly willing to consider trying these products,” adds the IWSC’s Rand. 

“It’s important to remember that it took a few years for hard seltzers to catch on in America, and we’re still in early days in this category outside the US.” 

The seltzer craze was born out of health-conscious millennial consumers who crave experiences but want to limit the impact on their health. However, Whitebox is doing things differently. Its Pocket Negroni, for example, is 21.8% abv and comes in 10cl cans and the company is focused on exploring what’s possible for the category. Lawrence adds: “We’re not trying to replicate bar cocktails, that’s not what we’re about because that’s what bars are for. 

“The plan is to keep going. We’re not going to stop bringing out products and evolving our offering, a bit like brewers are doing in the craft beer sector. 

“We need to establish our core range, which will probably be our Pocket Negroni and Old Fashioned, but Jack [Wareing, who works on recipe development] is working on about 16 different cans right now to launch throughout the year.” 

According to Lawrence, the company sold 20,000 Pocket Negronis from October to January compared to 1,000 Whisky Sodas. 

He adds: “I like the way we’ve differentiated the designs of our cans because it doesn’t just feel like a range of products, they each have their own identity. It’s important that we keep our range textured because it’s a canned cocktail portfolio all about being better canned cocktails.  

“We could bin off all the other products and just sell the Pocket Negronis and grow it globally, but it defeats the purpose of what we’re doing. We’re exploring what we can do with cans and we’re in the fortunate position of having everyone in-house and we don’t rely on outsourced canning lines or other stages of production. It makes product development so much more efficient.” 

Since the pandemic and the increase in quality RTDs, the level of expectation is now higher from consumers. For example, it is now standard to have top-level cocktails delivered to the door in most major cities – and consumers are expecting well-made, delicious canned RTDs. 

Lawrence adds: “Poor products will likely gain financially in the short term but won’t survive the winter because they won’t retain customers. If you want to use any decent booze in your drinks then the margins significantly reduce, which is why I’m concerned when I see big brands in supermarkets selling cans for £1.50, because they’re either selling in massive volumes at almost a loss, or using industrial ingredients.” 

However, supermarkets are by no means the only way to reach consumers. Any stigma which lingered with RTDs before the pandemic appears to have gone, which means customers are happy to drink canned cocktails in bars, particularly when they’re outdoors, because the quality is high and to a lot of people they’re the more hygienic option. Nine Lives bar in London, for example, sells its own branded RTDs, which makes prep and service much more efficient. A step further is Bo Kiri in London’s Peckham – a new bar which offers more than 250 different chilled cans to either drink in or take out.  

The fact that bricks-and-mortar shops and bars are now being dedicated specifically to the premium RTD category further highlights how far the sector has come over the past couple of years. 

And, while the data suggests future growth around the world, lately driven by the own-brand cocktails of major drinks companies, it’s innovative companies such as Whitebox that are showing not just what’s possible for canned drinks, but how good they can really be – and this is key for the longevity of canned RTDs. 

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