Ready To Drink? Grab an RTD

by The Tasting Alliance Team  |  04.28.2022

As much fun as it is to mix and shake a cocktail, sometimes just having a drink that’s ready to go right from bottle or can is what you want for ease and convenience. RTDs, “ready-to-drink,” as a category have exploded in growth in the United States in the past few years.

The Growth of RTDs

RTDs are expected to overtake wine in 2022, probably owing to the exponential boom of hard seltzers. These fizzy, light drinks were the most consumed spirit in the United States during 2021. In 2020, hard seltzers themselves rose 130%, lifting up the RTD industry over 60%. Seltzers continue to lead the category, closely followed by flavored beverages, RTD cocktails, and long drinks, like Ninkasi’s Gin Rickey

What Sets RTDs Apart

Although this category is still comparatively small, the numbers rose in 2020 and 2021 aided by the closures of bars and restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More people were consuming alcohol at home as well as outdoors, and ready-to-drink beverages made this easier and more enjoyable. Even as businesses began to open up, sales of RTDs continued to rise, even becoming popular in these establishments that used to be known for mixing the best drinks. Social Hour’s Prizefighter provides a signature cocktail experience that can go anywhere.

Ready-to-drink cocktails offer portability, ease, and a fun culture of connection. They make achieving that perfect balance of spirit and mixer absolutely seamless, like Treaty Oak Distilling has done with their Old Fashioned Cocktail. Not everyone wants to be an at-home bartender, but almost every beverage enthusiast wants to be able to enjoy high quality beverages in the comfort of their own home. There is less of a financial and time investment when someone else has already done the hard work for you. 

Ready-to-drink cocktails allow users to enjoy new flavors and tastes without having to worry about wasting money on a large bottle that they may not enjoy. Cases often come in mixed variety packs, allowing for sharing and sampling, which adds to the fun factor. 

The environment has also seen regular beer drinkers looking for something lighter and classier, as well. That being said, RTDs have come a long way from the wine coolers of your mother’s generation. People want to enjoy a modern, fresh option, and the seltzers and canned cocktails of these last few years have hit the mark. Just look at Ranch Rider’s  Jalapeño Ranch Water.

Through this growth, brands are working hard to stand out from their competition while continuing to evolve to meet customer needs and expectations. In recent years, many RTDs were centered around the addition of flavors, which led to a fast rise and quick crash, similar to the boom and bust of flavored vodkas in the early 2000s. 

More recently, however, the RTD innovation has become more consumer-centered instead of product-centered, which allows the category to garner expanded appeal and establish relevance at many types of occasions. Brands are also taking stock in the “health and wellness” sector, pushing their drinks that are low in calories or sugar, or that have fewer preservatives or artificial flavors. Organic is always a hit, as well. 

Many insiders believe that RTDs can up their ante by adding premium bases of real spirits. Consumers today aren’t just looking for taste, but also quality of a beverage. If they trust a liquor name, they’ll trust a ready-to-drink beverage that touts its quality. Consumer surveys show that beverage enthusiasts are more likely to choose a spirit-based drink over one that is malted or contains fermented sugar. 

The 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition showcased many delicious ready-to-drink or pre-mixed cocktails. Check out these selections whether you’re just getting started with your first RTD or are looking for a switch up from your usual go-to.