Pre-mix drinks have grown to be a hugely popular category in convenience, particularly during the summer, offering consumers a chilled and fruity grab-and-go option that sparkles through the warmer months. But it’s also a category that’s evolving rapidly, with launches from a range of brands, such as Tanqueray G&T and WKD cocktails.

Premium power

While the pre-mix market as a whole is expanding, the strongest growth is concentrated at the top end of the category, with customers frequently willing to pay a little more for a better-quality beverage.

“The premium end is definitely taking over, partly because of all the new products coming in to the market which come with a constant promotional push,” says Faisal Naseem, from Party Time Arbroath in Angus.

While retailers note shoppers trading up across the category, they’re particularly strong in gin.

“We’re selling more and more premium branded gin and tonics like Tanqueray Seville Orange and Opihr, which come in bottles rather than cans,” adds Paul Walker, owner of 13 Bargain Booze stores across north-west England.

Older demographics

The biggest demographic for pre-mix drinks tends to be customers over 30, retailers observe.

“It’s people 30 and older who tend to buy them,” says Naseem. “I don’t think students see the value in it, it’s cheaper to buy a bottle of gin, and tonic. The younger crowd enjoy making their own drinks.”

As a result, it’s worth bearing in mind older drinkers when tailoring your range and deciding how many facings to have of each line. For example, premium gin and tonics are better sellers than trendy cocktails  across Paul Walker’s stores.

“A lot of women used to buy small bottles of wine with the screw-on tops, and I think pre-mix drinks are replacing that trend,” he says. “It’s people like [Labour MP] Diane Abbott, getting caught on the train having a cocktail.”

Expanding demand

With demand for pre-mix growing, it’s worth building a diverse offering of pre-mix drinks to suit a range of tastes. Elaine Ball, from Bargain Booze in Brentwood, Essex, has stocked the biggest-name brands – Smirnoff & Cola, Smirnoff & Cranberry, Southern Comfort & Lemonade and Captain Morgan’s – for years. But more recently she’s begun experimenting with new lines, from Booker’s own-brand Flare cocktails to premium Manchester Gin, made with a Sicilian Lemon Tonic.

“It’s definitely been worth expanding the range we offer,” Ball says. “We’ve picked out new lines and found that people are looking to try new things, especially with gins. But Flare cocktails are proving popular, too, especially the On the Beach and Cosmo flavours.”

Multipacks madness

Intuitively, pre-mix drinks would seem to be the ultimate single-item purchase: why buy a multipack of gin & tonic cans when you could
just buy, well, a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic for less? But as any convenience store owner knows, people don’t always act the way you expect them to.

“You’d think pre-mix is a transient drink so you wouldn’t expect multipacks to sell,” says Walker. “But we go through loads of 10-packs of Gordon’s gin & tonics, and some Jack Daniel’s & Coke and Smirnoff & Coke. To be honest, I think it’s just laziness.”

Naseem has also noticed increasing sales of multipacks, although he has a different explanation for it.

“People come and buy in bulk if they’ve got a large party, a hen- or stag-do,” he says. “It’s worth having multipacks of Booker Flare cocktails, for example, because people really appreciate the lower price when they’re buying large quantities.”

Trips and festivals

While all alcoholic drink sales ebb and flow depending on weather and big events, the pre-mix category is particularly sensitive.

“It’s not something we see consumers buying every weekend,” says Naseem. 

“It really depends on the weather – it’s nice for a picnic – and on festivals and events, like a ladies’ night in for the races.

“It’s also a good little treat for when people are travelling. Some of our older customers might buy them before going on a coach trip, for example.”

As a result, it’s worth stepping up stocks during holiday season or in advance of big sporting events, Naseem adds.

Merchandising tips

Paul Walker
Bargain Booze, Stockport

Pre-mix drinks sell a lot better chilled in the fridge. I notice a lot of places don’t chill them, but for me it’s essential. They’re frequently grabbed as an on-the-move drink, and no-one wants a warm rum & coke.

Faisal Naseem
Party Time
Arbroath, Angus

We try to keep all our pre-mix drinks together on the fixture rather than have them scattered around among the other drinks. It’s best to allocate one shelf to pre-mix so when someone comes in, they know they can go to that section of the store and the whole selection will be there in front of them.

Key new products

Tanqueray Pre-Mix Gin Bottles

Iconic gin brand Tanqueray has dived into the pre-mix marketplace with two premium ready-to-drink formats. Tanqueray London Dry Gin & Tonic and Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla Distilled Gin & Tonic are both available in bespoke 275ml glass bottles, with a convenient screw-cap for on-the-go drinking. 

WKD Venom Cocktails

WKD is also hitching its wagon to the cocktail trend, launching two new products in 440ml cans. With striking snakeskin-style graphics and a punchy ABV of 6.5%, WKD Venom and WKD Anti Venom look well-positioned to pull more younger, student drinkers into the pre-mix category. 

Crooked Beverage Co Alcoholic Sodas

Innovative and eye-catching, Crooked Beverage Co’s three-strong range of alcoholic craft sodas come in colourful 330ml cans. Flavours include Dayglo Skies, Mother Moon and Midnight Stage. Manufacturer Global Brands is currently running a neck-hanger point-of-sale promotion offering consumers 50p off every can purchased.

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