What you need to know

RTD alcoholic beverages remain a bright spot in the alcohol space, avoiding the flight seen in other categories. Seltzers continue to drive growth, and volume increases will continue as large brands enter the category, bringing their marketing heft and distribution. While the category was not as strongly impacted by on-premise drinking declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RTDs experience their own challenge – being largely seen as social drinks during a time when large gatherings are curtailed. Category players can use this time to nurture a sense of community among current users and onboard new users looking for accessible excitement at home.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the RTD alcoholic beverages market

  • Importance of focusing on quality during time of economic uncertainty

  • Role of health and where category players may focus their efforts

  • Need for category to prepare for return to on-premise drinking


This Report covers on- and off-premise sales of RTD premade alcoholic beverages, including:

  • Flavored malt beverages – includes prepared malt beverages such as Bud Light Lime-a-Rita

  • Prepared spirits-based cocktails – drinks such as Bacardi Classic Cocktails Mojito that are made with distilled spirits

  • Wine coolers – made with wine combined with fruit juices and other sweeteners

This Report excludes non-alcoholic mixers typically added to alcohol to make alcoholic cocktails and mixed drinks, such as:

  • “Just add alcohol” mixes designed for specific cocktails (eg Bloody Mary mix, margarita mix)

  • Non-alcoholic mixers that are traditionally positioned for use with alcohol to make cocktails (eg bitters, grenadine)

COVID-19: Market context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic; on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US. 

Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April and remained in place through May and in some cases June. During this time, referred to as lockdown, nonessential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations.

During reemergence, all 50 states have relaxed stay-at-home orders and allowed businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place. The continued spread of COVID-19 infections has driven some states to slow down or reverse course on reopening plans. Mintel anticipates the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021, until a vaccine is widely available.

Economic and other assumptions

This Report assumes the following:

  • Unemployment will remain at 10.6% in 2020 before incrementally improving over the next five years.

  • US GDP will decline 5.8% in 2020 and increase 4% in 2021, followed by continuous increases until 2025.

  • Consumer confidence rests at 81.2 as of October 2020. This is a 9.3-point improvement from its low of 71.8 in April, indicating that consumer confidence is on an upswing and could improve throughout the rest of the year.

Back to top