Can Brands Enhance the Flavor of Popular Ready-to-Drink Cocktails for Millennials and Gen Z?

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Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails have taken the beverage market by storm, especially among millennials and Gen Z. These drinks offer convenience and a variety of flavors, making them a popular choice for younger generations who value portability and ease of use. However, as the market matures, consumers are increasingly demanding higher quality and more authentic flavors.

The Rise of RTD Cocktails

The Rise Of The RTD — Crafthouse Cocktails

Popularity Among Millennials and Gen Z

RTD cocktails have become a significant trend in the beverage industry. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, RTDs were the fastest-growing spirits category by revenue in 2022, with a growth rate of 27%. This surge is driven by younger consumers who appreciate the convenience and variety these drinks offer.

Market Growth

The global RTD market is expected to reach $50 billion by 2030. Major players like Suntory aim to capture a substantial share of this market, targeting $3 billion in RTD sales by the end of the decade. This growth is not just limited to traditional retail spaces; RTDs are also making significant inroads into bars, sports stadiums, airports, and hotels.

Consumer Preferences and Flavor Expectations

2024 consumer food preference trends

Shifting Tastes

Initially, consumers were willing to compromise on flavor for the convenience of RTDs. However, as the market has grown, so have consumer expectations. Today, millennials and Gen Z are looking for RTDs that offer the same quality and taste as traditional cocktails made by skilled mixologists.

Health and Transparency

There is also a growing demand for healthier options and transparency about ingredients. Consumers are increasingly looking for RTDs with lower calories, less sugar, and clear ingredient lists. This trend is pushing brands to innovate and improve their offerings.

Case Studies: Brands Leading the Way

Suntory’s -196 RTD

Suntory’s -196 RTD is a prime example of how brands are innovating to meet consumer demands. This drink is made using whole fruits picked at peak ripeness, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and then crushed and infused into vodka. This process results in a fuller flavor that stands out in the crowded RTD market.

Diageo’s Flavor Diversification

Diageo has taken a broad approach to flavor diversification with its RTD offerings under brands like Captain Morgan and Smirnoff. By introducing new flavors like watermelon lime and pineapple daiquiri, and redesigning packaging for its Lone River hard seltzer, Diageo is catering to a wide range of consumer tastes and preferences.

The Role of Ingredient Quality

Real Spirits vs. Malt Bases

One significant trend in the RTD market is the shift from malt-based beverages to those made with real spirits like vodka and tequila. Consumers are increasingly seeking authenticity in their drinks, preferring RTDs that taste like traditional cocktails.

Natural and High-Quality Ingredients

In addition to using real spirits, brands are also focusing on incorporating natural and high-quality ingredients into their RTDs. This includes using fresh fruit juices, natural flavorings, and premium spirits to create a more authentic and enjoyable drinking experience.

Overcoming Challenges in Flavor Enhancement

Balancing Flavor and Health Concerns

One of the main challenges in enhancing the flavor of RTD cocktails is balancing taste with health concerns. Consumers want drinks that are flavorful but also low in calories and sugar. Brands need to find ways to create rich, complex flavors without relying on excessive sweetness or artificial ingredients.

Localization of Flavors

Another challenge is catering to diverse taste preferences across different geographic regions. What works well in one market might not be as popular in another. Brands need to consider regional preferences and adapt their flavors accordingly.

The Future of RTD Cocktails

Technological Advancements

The future of RTD cocktails will likely see further integration of technology in product development. Advanced data analytics, machine learning, and AI will continue to play a critical role in understanding consumer preferences and creating innovative, high-quality products.

Sustainable and Ethical Practices

As consumers become more conscious of sustainability and ethical practices, brands will need to focus on these aspects in their RTD offerings. This includes sourcing ingredients responsibly, reducing carbon footprints, and using eco-friendly packaging.


The RTD cocktail market is poised for continued growth, driven by the convenience and variety these drinks offer. However, to maintain this momentum, brands must focus on enhancing the flavor and quality of their products.