Premiumization: The Next Alcoholic RTD Frontier

The global alcoholic Ready-to-Drink (RTD) category is expected to see a significant shift towards premiumization and ready-to-drink innovations. This is evident in stats like:

Searches for canned cocktails were up by 1040% since 2019.

According to the IWSR RTDs 2023 Strategic Study, the alcoholic RTD category is expected to reach $40 billion by 2027 across 10 key markets, including South Africa.

sparkling canned beverages

Why Premium RTDs or Canned Cocktails?

Spirit-based RTD’s and Canned Cocktails are made with real ingredients and high-quality alcohol, unlike the more artificial malt beverages that dominate the market.

This offers consumers value in the form of:

wine glass


Consumers don’t have to worry about buying, measuring and mixing the perfect drink – they can simply grab a can and enjoy anywhere at any time.



Wtih a wide variety of options and a selection of perfectly suited flavours and brands – there is something for everyone.

yellow can


As more and more consumers choose to partake in mindful drinking, flexible RTD recipes can offer lowered ABV options and entice the sober curious to continue to engage with their favourite brands.

alcoholic beverage


You can expect a balanced and satisfying taste from RTD cocktails and drinks as they have been blended by experts who have focused on the right proportions of quality alcohol, mixer and additives that will deliver a smooth and refershing experience.

Evolving Consumer Needs

To meet the evolving needs of consumers, RTD product developers should consider a more deliberate approach to innovation. This means creating products that prioritize consumer-forward cues, such as the level of alcohol, the base of the RTD, and the flavour of the product.

At Sensient Technologies, we believe that the key to developing successful RTDs and Canned Cocktails lies in creating unique and innovative products that meet the demands for quality, convenience, variety and control.

Here are a few strategies that can help you create premium RTDs that appeal to contemporary consumers:

Epicurean Flavoursed drinks

Formulate with Epicurean Flavours:

Bold, punchy flavours and epicurean techniques can help build immersive mixology experience that brings your product to life. Market leaders in this space don’t shy away from these flavours and rather use it as a tool to attract new users with novelty and experience.

Sensient’s collection of “Smokeless” smokes, floral, botanical and chili extracts are the perfect tools to bring these kinds of innovations to life.

fruity alcoholic drinks

Develop Base Formulas that Meet Consumer Needs:

RTD bases that bring flavour to life while reducing undesirable ingredients like sugar or sweeteners can impact the uptake of new product innovations as well as assist in mitigating challenges like sugar tax which can cut formulation costs.

Sensients SweetEase offers an alternative and helps reduce sugar in formulations without affecting the overall enjoyment of your RTD or Cocktail in a Can.

alcoholic beverages

Create Vibrant Packaging and Products on Shelf with Natural Colours:

Premium packaging and natural colours can offer a premium naturalness cue that justifies a higher-priced product on shelves. Colour can be used to recreate the perception of intense flavour as well as fortify the notion of quality and make your products stand out.


Increase ABV:

While stronger alcoholic drinks are what consumers are looking for, the tax implications of increasing ABV can outweigh the benefits. However, creating those “stronger” taste profiles is achievable with flavours like the SensiCraft range of enhancers, which mimic the taste and impart body to your recipe.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The IWSR RTDs Strategic Study 2023 also reveals that individual markets have local tastes and dynamics, with different categories, flavours, and bases trending in different places. This means that a one-size-fits-all approach will not be effective, and brand owners need to be agile and tailor their product mix to localized developments.

In summary, the RTD market is evolving, and premiumization and ready-to-drink is the key. Working with Sensient Technologies SA can help you create premium formats, use named spirits categories, and enhance products with functional ingredients to stand out in the crowded market. Additionally, by tailoring your product mix to local markets and consumer preferences, you can maximize growth potential and increase your market share.

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