What you need to know

The RTD (ready-to-drink) alcoholic beverage market in the US has been enjoying a boon in recent years, fueled largely by the growth in flavored malt beverages. The next several years should see that segment continue to propel the category to new sales heights, levels unseen since the flavored alcoholic beverage and alcopops fad in the early 2000s.

The category’s other two segments (wine coolers and spirits-based prepared cocktails) will provide something of a drag to the overall growth, with each segment seeing sales drops in all but the best-case scenarios.


This report includes RTD (ready-to-drink) premade alcoholic beverages, including wine coolers, flavored malt beverages, and prepared spirits-based cocktails.

This report excludes the following categories, which are covered in Mintel’s Dark Spirits – US, October 2014:

  • Whiskey/whisky, which includes the following subsegments:

  • Canadian whisky

  • Straight American whiskey, including bourbon and unaged white whiskey (also known as moonshine; the report covers legally sold, unaged white whiskey marketed as moonshine, not the illegally made varieties often associated with the term in various regions of the US).

  • Scotch whisky

  • Blended American whiskey

  • Irish whiskey

  • Brandy and cognac, as well as Armagnac.

This report also excludes white spirits sold for home preparation and/or consumption, which are covered in Mintel’s White Spirits – US, November 2014 and analyzes the following types of white spirits:

  • Vodka

  • Rum, including dark, aged, and/or spiced rum

  • Gin

  • Tequila.

Beer, including domestic, imported, and craft or microbrew beer, also is excluded from this report and is covered in Mintel’s Beer – US, January 2015, as well as Craft Beer – US, June 2014, Beer – US, December 2013 and Craft Beer – US, November 2012.

Value figures throughout this report are at rsp (retail selling prices) excluding sales tax unless otherwise stated.

Data sources

Sales data

  • Market/Segment Size and Forecast: Mintel/based on The Beverage Information Group 2014 Liquor Handbook; Bureau of Economic Analysis

  • Segment Performance: Volume sales based on Mintel/The Beverage Information Group 2014 Liquor Handbook.

  • Leading Companies and Brand Share: Volume sales based on Mintel/The Beverage Information Group 2014 Liquor Handbook.

Consumer survey data

For the purposes of this report, Mintel commissioned exclusive consumer research through GMI to explore consumer consumption/purchases of and attitudes toward RTD alcoholic beverages sold at retail. Mintel was responsible for the survey design, data analysis, and reporting. Fieldwork was conducted in August 2014 among a sample of 2,000 adults aged 22+ with access to the internet. The base of respondents aged 22+ is inclusive of consumers who were of legal drinking age (21 years old) in the previous six months for comparative questions.

Mintel selects survey respondents so that they are proportionally balanced to the entire US adult population based on the key demographics of gender, age, household income, and region. Mintel also slightly oversamples, relative to the population, respondents that are Hispanic or Black to ensure an adequate representation of these groups in the survey results. Please note that Mintel surveys are conducted online and in English only. Hispanics who are not online and/or do not speak English are not included in the survey results.

Mintel has also analyzed data from Experian Marketing Services, using the Simmons NCS (National Consumer Study) and the Simmons NHCS (National Hispanic Consumer Study). The Experian Marketing Services Simmons NCS/NHCS was carried out during the Summer 2014 survey period, and the results are based on the sample of 24,852 adults aged 21+, with results weighted to represent the US adult population.

While race and Hispanic origin are separate demographic characteristics, Mintel often compares them to each other. Please note that the responses for race (White, Black, Asian, Native American, or other race) will overlap those that also are Hispanic, because Hispanics can be of any race.

In addition to quantitative consumer research, Mintel also conducted an online discussion group among a demographically mixed group of adults aged 22+. This discussion group was asynchronous (ie, not run in real time), functioning like a blog or bulletin board, with questions remaining posted for a predetermined period of time. This method allows participants to respond reflectively, at their leisure, or to log off to think about any issues raised, and return later to respond. Participants were recruited from GMI’s online consumer panel with responses collected in October 2014. All quotes are included verbatim and, as such, include typos and other grammatical errors as they originally appeared.

Advertising creative

Broadcast ads mentioned in the Marketing Strategies section of this report include links to the ads on YouTube. These videos are sourced from brand-specific channels but can be removed or changed by the channels’ owners following publication. Due to the age restrictions for the alcoholic beverage subject matter, accessing these videos requires a YouTube log-in and consent to any potentially mature content of the videos.

Abbreviations and terms


The following is a list of abbreviations used in this report:

ABV Alcohol by volume
CPI Consumer Price Index
GNPD Global New Products Database
IRI Information Resources Inc.
NACS National Association of Convenience Stores
NCS/NHCS National Consumer Study/National Hispanic Consumer Study (Experian Marketing Services)
rsp Retail selling price
RTD Ready-to-drink
: :


Generations are discussed within this report, and they are defined as:

World War II/Swing generations Members of the WWII Generation were born in 1932 or before and are aged 82 or older in 2014. Members of the Swing Generation were born between 1933 and 1945 and are aged 69-81 in 2014.
Baby Boomers The generation born between 1946 and 1964. In 2014, Baby Boomers are between the ages of 50 and 68.
Generation X The generation born between 1965 and 1976. In 2014, Gen Xers are between the ages of 38 and 49.
Millennials* Born between 1977 and 1994, Millennials are aged 20-37 in 2014.
iGeneration Born between 1995 and 2007, members of iGen are aged 7-19 in 2014.
Emerging generation The newest generation born in 2008 as the annual number of births declined sharply with the recession. In 2014 members of this as-yet-unnamed generation are younger than 7.

* also known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers

In order to provide an inflation-adjusted price value for markets, Mintel uses the CPI to deflate current prices. The CPI is defined as follows:

CPI The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

The CPI and its components are typically used to adjust other economic series for price changes and to translate these series into inflation-free dollars. Examples of series adjusted by the CPI include retail sales, hourly and weekly earnings, and components of the national income and product accounts. In addition, and in Mintel reports, the CPI is used as a deflator of the value of the consumer’s dollar to find its purchasing power. The purchasing power of the consumer’s dollar measures the change in the value to the consumer of goods and services that a dollar will buy at different dates.

The CPI is generally the best measure for adjusting payments to consumers when the intent is to allow consumers to purchase, at today’s prices, a market basket of goods and services equivalent to one that they could purchase in an earlier period. It is also the best measure to use to translate retail sales into real or inflation-free dollars.

Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics definition.

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