2023 was undoubtedly the year of Ready to Drink (RTD) Spirits, dominating the liquor market and outperforming all other categories for dollar growth. The sheer quantity of options available on shelf to consumers is remarkable, with both new entrants and ongoing brands demanding greater space through unique selling points, influencer ties, nostalgic branding and flavour innovation.

There’s no hiding from the cost-of-living squeeze facing all Australians, who are stretching their dollar further than they have ever needed to before. The growth recognised by RTD is even more impressive when placed alongside this context, especially from new brands, as shoppers tend to stick with the products they know and love in times of financial uncertainty.

Where has this growth come from? And what can other brands learn from these stories of success?   

There has been an increased consumer preference for vodka-based, citrus flavoured RTD beverages. If a new or existing brand is looking to quickly succeed, a core range revolving around these attributes may be the best not-so-secret recipe. However, it’s never that simple. The brands driving RTD have complemented this recipe with zest, vibrancy and familiarity across all elements of their marketing mix. The almost boundless range of playful premixed drinks from Billson’s, including Fruit Tangle, Creamy Soda and Advent Calendar exclusives, have led the brand to the top position for growth in RTD and all liquor. The headline-grabbing Hard Rated (formerly Hard Solo) isn’t far behind, as nostalgic ties to an Australian icon land this beverage as a category trailblazer. Flavour playfulness and discernible branding have been the key within RTD, however, category density may reach a tipping point in 2024.

Will 2024 tell a similar story? Or could we be in for a plot twist?

Undoubtedly, RTD will continue to record remarkable sales this year, as liquor consumers are clearly drawn towards trendy brands that fit within modern trends, which offer fresh flavours, often low calorie and/or low sugar.

Nonetheless, beer is already putting it’s hand up to lead liquor growth in 2024.

Plausible growth among brands (including Great Northern, Hahn Super Dry and James Squire) playing off the trends seen in RTD prompt beer to be in the perfect place to further cement itself as the leading liquor category. The growing presence of mid-strength, low calorie and new flavour options in a mature category is truly encouraging.

What will win this year? And who will drive this? Only time and data will tell…

Data: Circana MarketEdge; Australia Liquor Weighted; MAT To 03/12/23

This article originally appeared in the 2024 Leaders Forum issue of National Liquor News.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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