With their on-trade sales soaring by 9.5% over the last 12 months, there is no sign of consumers’ appetite for cocktails waning—and draught and pre-batched versions could be a great way for operators to sustain the growth.
Data from CGA’s new Mixed Drinks Report shows that cocktails now account for one in every 14 spirits measured and served in bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants.
The remarkable surge in cocktails’ popularity also reflects a wider consumer trend towards more premium drinks, and a willingness to pay a little extra for better quality—but only if the overall experience during a visit to a bar, pub or restaurant meets their expectations.
The boom has led more and more venues to add cocktails to their menus. They are now stocked in almost 40% of all on-trade venues, and well over three quarters of bars. But for new entrants to the market, delivering a great cocktail experience can be difficult. Bartender skill, speed of serve and perceived quality are among the challenges to overcome, and they are amplified in pubs and restaurants.
Draught and pre-batched cocktails provide a viable solution to these difficulties, and we have started to see them being offered more widely across the market in recent years. There are a variety of solutions on the market now, from both major spirits suppliers, smaller independents and companies specialising specifically in dispense. These range from kegs to bag-in-box solutions for draught and a wide variety of pre-batched offerings.
Consumers’ perceptions of the quality of draught-dispense or pre-batched cocktails have previously been a barrier to purchase. They have also suffered from a lack of availability, as fewer than a quarter of cocktail drinkers have actually seen them while drinking out.
But the interest is clearly there. Nearly 40% of cocktail drinkers say they are likely to purchase draught or pre-batched options while drinking out, and two thirds of those who have seen them have tried one. More than 80% of those who try one are likely to purchase again—more than double that of the average cocktail drinker.
For suppliers offering draught and pre-batch cocktails, the big challenge now is to drive availability and get liquid on lips through trial-based marketing activity. Operators may need education about the category, as some are wary of consumers’ previous perceptions. They will also need to understand expectations on price, as around two thirds of consumers expect draught and pre-batched options to cost less than a traditionally made cocktail.
Theatre of serve has always been a driver of cocktail purchases, and today’s consumer is savvy enough to know that they shouldn’t be paying the same for something that doesn’t require the same time and skill as a made-from-scratch cocktail. But what draught or pre-batched cocktails lack in theatre, they make up for in convenience and consistency—and they could open up considerable headroom for the cocktail category to grow into.