Japan set to lead RTD growth

The world’s RTD brands can benefit from a growing market over the next few years

The world’s RTD brands can benefit from a growing market over the next few years, but divergent trends involving premiumisation and health consciousness will create varied conditions in the category’s major markets.


Japan, which has now overtaken the US to become the largest RTD market by volume in the world, is set to spearhead future growth for the global category, adding some 19m of RTDs’ forecast 26m additional case sales in the years to 2022.

The US, meanwhile, is now in decline after a period of strong growth, impacted by the lack of longevity of some RTD products and the growing consumer desire for healthier, fresher and less sweet options.

This latter factor has hit global sales of RTDs, which declined by around 8m cases in 2017, while simultaneously boosting sales of premixed cocktails which are increasingly using premium spirit bases and fresh, authentic ingredients.

Meanwhile, the RTD cocktail sector is increasingly vibrant, the report says, with craft producers focusing on premium, good-quality ingredients, from ready-to-serve gin-and-tonics to twisted classic cocktails and even original recipes that would not be out of place in a style bar. The trend has now spread to the biggest RTD market of them all, Japan.

Beyond the major markets, RTDs are enjoying growing success in emerging economies, where their affordability is a key factor in recruiting younger LDA consumers – including Mexico, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Brazil and China have recently declined but remain sizeable markets for RTDs.

“RTDs allow emerging-market consumers to enjoy the status of an international brand name, such as Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam or Smirnoff, at a fraction of the price of a full-sized spirits bottle,” the report points out. However, 29 of the top 50 RTD markets have fallen since 2012, and some of the strongest historical destinations – Australia, Russia, the UK and Ukraine – are now in long-term decline, with little immediate prospect of recovery.

Meanwhile, cider’s mild resurgence is poised to continue in the coming years, fuelled by a boom in fruit cider sales in the UK, the category’s largest market by some distance. The established brands are not necessarily reaping the rewards of this growth, though. In 2017 leading brand Strongbow, responsible for nearly 15% of the cider category in Europe, saw its sales decline.

One of the factors underpinning this apparently counterintuitive phenomenon is the premiumisation trend now prevalent across many of cider’s largest – and fastest-growing – markets. ‘Craft’ cider brands are enjoying notable success as consumers increasingly move away from overtly and artificially sweetened products.

Find out more about the IWSR Global Database and Country Reports.

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