The canned cocktail category has been thriving, but marketers in the space could soon face new challenges as the pandemic winds down, consumer habits shift and the market differentiates brands that have long-term potential from those that will fade out.
The inflection point — which experts say will call for deeper brand association targeting millennial drinkers — comes after the category experienced an 86.8% rise in year-over-year off-premise dollars through the first five months of the pandemic, according to Nielsen data cited by Drizly. This growth hinged on the circumstances of the health crisis, as well as the demand established by its predecessor and ready-to-drink (RTD) relative, hard seltzers.
“The introduction of hard seltzers in the market opened a door for consumers looking for light and refreshing drinks with a more sessionable ABV [alcohol by volume],” said Monica Rustgi, vice president of marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s Beyond Beer brands. “Canned cocktails really tap into the consumer need for convenience and portability.”
For similar reasons, the category has been a natural fit for a country that faced long lockdowns. As alcohol consumption increased for U.S. adults during the pandemic, those looking for novelty could find in canned cocktails the chance to experiment with mixed drinks in an easy, convenient and affordable way. Moreover, a raft of restrictions made bars and restaurants less accessible, preventing consumers from purchasing real cocktails and further shifting their expectations of the beverage in the direction of RTD products.