• 10.-12. October 2022
  • Exhibition Centre Berlin

22 April 2022, by Peter Eichhorn

RTD = Really tasty Drinks?

What is "Ready to Drink" all about and what opportunities does the trend offer for the spirits and bar scene? Our author Peter Eichhorn took a closer look.


© Cocktailando

It's popping up more and more often in analyses and business reports. That ominous abbreviation "RTD". "Ready to drink" is what the combination of letters means and it includes all those beverage products that contain a liquid mixture and only require refrigeration to be served and drunk immediately with as little effort as possible. In the United States in particular, the category is showing impressive growth figures and is encouraging more and more players to enter this market.


New trend raises questions

What is this category all about in this country? Is it a temporary stopgap solution, created in Corona times? Or will we have to get used to new premix and designer drink concepts after the faded alcopop generation of the early 2000s? And for serious mixed drinks, we need to examine what role Bottled and Canned Cocktails will play in the future. And what opportunities does the trend offer for the spirits and bartending scene?


Hard Seltzer - Every country drinks differently

In a current analysis from October 2021, the U.S. experts of the business magazine "Forbes" expect sales figures in the RTD segment to double by 2025 in North America. In addition to the familiar rum and cola, whiskey and cola as well as gin tonic cans, Americans are now looking at a huge wave of ever new creations from port and tonic to vodka spritz and espresso martinis in cans. The leader of the steeply rising sales figures is the hard seltzer category. Some of these drinks could also be tasted at the Bar Convent Berlin last fall. Alcohol content of five percent, a mostly subtle but varied flavoring, and strong carbonation.


Skyrocket in the beverage industry

The trail of Hard Seltzers leads back to 2013, when the first individual products came onto the market rather unnoticed. But in 2018, the skyrocket began, led by the "White Claw" brand and fueled by various influencer videos. White Claw's sales figures were $154.8 million in 2018, then grew to a whopping $627.2 million in 2019. Many refer to the cult brand as "the Coke of Hard Seltzers." Meanwhile, more and more of the big brands are getting into the Hard Seltzer space. Jose Cuervo, Mountain Dew, Corona, Bud Light, Michelob, Sauza and Smirnoff. Not to mention the numerous breweries whose beer sales plummeted during Corona and who eagerly brewed Hard Seltzer instead.


Alcopop somehow?

In Germany in particular, the trend has been slow to catch on. Consumer curiosity is holding back, and companies here in particular have to observe that special legal regulation of the "alcopop tax," which has the status of a "special tax." 


A mixture of taxes and laws

The German Federal Ministry of Finance explains: "The alcopop tax was introduced in Germany by the Act to Improve the Protection of Young People from the Dangers of Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption of July 23, 2004 (BGBl. I p. 1857). So-called alcopops are basically sweet drinks containing alcohol, which have an alcohol content of more than 1.2% by volume but less than 10% by volume and are filled ready-to-drink mixed in sealed containers ready for sale.

Lawyers see some weak points in the law, as it refers to the tax on spirits, leading to discussion of the interpretation that wine- or beer-based beverages are thus not covered. Many companies thus see a gray area and are waiting. Especially since a convincing demand has not yet materialized. 


My cocktail in a bottle please!?

Forbes divides the U.S. market into RTD subcategories, such as Hard Kombucha, Hard Coffee, Hard Tea, Wine Spritzers, and flavored alcoholic beverages à la energy alcoholics. The analysts also list true cocktails, but add that in Australia, Canada and Germany, for example, these cocktails are appearing more significantly in the market than in the US.

Numerous guests missed their bars during lockdown periods, so bartenders quickly developed their home cocktail offerings. Many - bartenders and guests - are happy to finally be able to enjoy the bar craze in the flesh again. But some concepts have come to stay. We would like to present three examples.


“Home Cocktails” from Hamburg

From Hamburg comes the project of Leonard Orosz and Thomas Lang, the latter well known from Frankfurt's Kinly Bar. "Home Cocktails" is the name of the brand with original and unusual cocktails. Leo talks about their inspiration and experiences:

"Thomas and I independently experimented with pre-bottled drinks a few years ago. Mainly, at the time, it was about being faster at the bar. During the initial lockdown, we then developed the idea further and created a brand, because the potential for bottled cocktails is enormous. We have an online store, of course, where end consumers can order the drinks to their homes. But we also supply hotels and restaurants that don't have a mixologist but still want to offer a first-class drink. Of course, our drinks also fit perfectly into any minibar. Furthermore, we also advise and offer white label solutions. For example, we developed and produced the drinks for GO by Steffen Henssler. I've been an employer more or less continuously since 2007, and of course I've been observing the development of personnel and the challenges that come with it. Bottled Cocktails are not the solution, but it is a small help.

In Asia and America, the acceptance of bottled drinks is much higher. You don't have to talk much to the F&B manager there. Germany is lagging behind a bit, but that will certainly change in the coming months and years.

What bartenders started during Corona to survive the lockdown will evolve and become more professional. The industry is not sleeping and is already developing concepts because it sees a profitable market. I think it will be exciting to see where the journey goes."

Visit Home Cocktails!

© Home Cocktails

© Bottle Lab & Co.

“Bottle Lab & Co.” from Bonn

The charming Bonn bar "Waiting Room" is the cradle of Alexander and David Kunze's Bottle Lab & Co. brand. Alex is pleased with the development so far:

"We combed through the archives of cocktail history and selected six classics from different eras and regions: Old Fashioned, Negroni, Vesper Martini, Bobby Burns, El Presidente and Sazerac. Thus, we focus on purist archetypes of drink culture with recipes as true to the original as possible, which have been drunk and appreciated in this way for many decades. This sets us apart from some of our competitors, who tend to focus on creative in-house creations or modern twists on various classics. On the one hand, our goal is to offer our bar guests their preferred drinks in consistent quality, regardless of our opening hours. Furthermore, we would also like to try to pick up customers, for example in upscale food retail, who may not yet have had so much contact with classic cocktails and who might otherwise have reached for the umpteenth bottle of gin.

We actually already started distributing the first Bottled Cocktails from our bar at the end of 2019. The background to this was that we had already been serving certain drinks pre-batched for some time, and guests were approaching us more and more frequently to ask whether these drinks could not also be ordered to go. The pandemic and the closure of the bar in the first lockdown served as a catalyst, of course, and we had a lot of time to devote to the project from now on - which, thank goodness, was received positively by our regulars from the beginning and communicated to friends and acquaintances. Over time, great opportunities and cooperations have arisen and our Bottle Lab products can also be found in grocery stores as well as fashion boutiques and concept stores. Furthermore, we also develop our own concepts for customers in the hotel industry."

Visit Bottle Lab & Co.

“Cocktailando” from Berlin

Konstantin Hennrich runs the exquisite "Stairs Bar" in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. For him, the Pandemic and Lockdown meant a necessary starting shot for new concepts as well: 

"When Corona came up and the business situation of our bar changed acutely, we started to offer bottled cocktails with Stairs Bar and sold cocktails through our online store. We noticed that the response was consistently positive and gratefully received by our customers. This inspired me to start Cocktailando together with my business partner. Now we create and produce premixed cocktails from 200ml to one liter bottles to canisters for events and catering. Currently we are expanding our distribution capabilities. For private customers and also B2B. We are already supplying the hotel and catering industry. Overall, we are very excited and full of anticipation for the future."

Visit Cocktailando!

© Cocktailando