Skip the blender. Forget the shaker. The method for many of today’s mixed cocktails is pour and enjoy.
“It’s ready to go,” Todd Wiggs, beer and wine director at Jungle Jim’s International Market , Fairfield, Ohio, says of the premixed cocktail.
Flavored malt beverages and wine  products — sold in single-serve, 10-ounce pouches that can be chilled or frozen to create a pina colada or other cocktail — played a starring role in Jungle Jim’s Cincinnati store over the summer.
A 4-foot section for the pouch drinks was quickly expanded to 18 feet after a variety of new players entered the market. Featured brands included Daily’s, Parrot Bay, Mike’s, Seagram’s Escapes, Arbor Mist and T.G.I. Fridays.
The category appeals to a largely female demographic looking for sweet, easy-to-prepare alcoholic drinks.
Though pouch cocktails typically sell for about $1.99 each, Jungle Jim’s was able to promote them at 10 for $10 for several weeks.
Shoppers could pick and choose a variety of different beverages , ranging from mojitos and cosmos to pina coladas and margaritas.
“The pouches cater to those who want to enjoy a restaurant-style cocktail at home,” Wiggs said.
While the category is at its height in the summer, new flavors like hard cider and spiced sangria could help it get year-round attention, Wiggs said.
Niemann Foods , Quincy, Ill., also has had success with the pouches, according to category manager Marty Miller.
“The pouches have been a nice addition, providing smaller sizes, lower retails and convenience to the customer,” said Miller.
At a recent trade show, Niemann saw pouches of vodka and rum that are headed to market soon. Niemann is discussing the items internally to determine if it will buy the vodka pouches. But the company is concerned about shrink.
“We feel the pouches of liquor could be difficult to merchandise due to easy theft with them since they are small,” Miller noted.
Niemann’s top three wine/malt beverage pouch brands are Daily’s, Parrot Bay and Cordina. Several “light” pouches also have been well received.
Introduced in 2005, the Daily’s line has expanded from margaritas and daiquiris to 13 flavors, including tropical. It also has several “light” flavors that contain 180 calories per 10-ounce pouch, down from the regular 280 calories.
“Our consumers told us they want new things, and light products are one of the things they want,” said Molly Boras, senior director of cocktail marketing at American Beverage Corp., Verona, Pa., marketer of Daily’s.
The company caters to those who want a quick and easy way to enjoy a cocktail at home or on the go, said Boras.
“All they need to do is take a pouch out of the freezer for a great-tasting prepared frozen cocktail without any work,” she said.
Because they are sold individually, pouches provide good impulse sales, said Boras. American Beverage Corp. offers countertop and front-end displays to attract consumers waiting in line.
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Innovation has been a huge driver in the business. Even brewer Anheuser-Busch entered the market with its Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, a flavored malt beverage sold in a can that blends its Bud Light Lime with a margarita flavor. The company expanded the line with the launch of Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita, a combination of Bud Light Lime with the taste of a strawberry margarita.
Unique higher-end premixed cocktails are capturing retail attention. Take Absolut Tune, a sparkling beverage made with vodka and New Zealand sauvignon blanc. It is packaged in a Champagne-like bottle.
There’s also Sauza ready-to-serve sparkling margarita made with real tequila, and available in such flavors as original, lime, mango peach and wild berry.
Prepared cocktails generated $176.1 million in dollar sales in food stores for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 11, an 8% drop from the same period the previous year, according to IRI.
One reason for the decline in the food channel could be growing distribution in other channels — mainly convenience, said Richard Hurst, IRI’s beer, wine and spirits new practice leader.
Since many premade cocktails are malt-based, they typically get distribution anywhere beer is sold. This lends itself to convenience stores.
Some brands are even initially launched exclusively in convenience. Take Clubtails, cocktails like the Screwdriver and Long Island Iced Tea in a can.
“Don’t waste time gathering ingredients and concocting a mediocre drink when we have blended the perfect cocktail for all consumers to enjoy,” Clubtails promotional materials read.
There’s also BuzzBallz, mixed drinks made with juice, vodka, gin, rum or tequila. They are sold in ball-shaped containers.
“Products like these may be causing some of the (premixed cocktail sales) decline in food,” Hurst said.
While new products continue to launch, it’s unclear if the segment will have longevity, Hurst said.
“The question is whether or not this is a sustainable proposition, or a fad that may come and go,” he said.
While innovation is a good thing, a flood of similar products won’t contribute to overall category growth, said Hurst.
“If innovation becomes just a proliferation of similar-looking products, and real brands don’t emerge from it, it won’t be sustainable,” he said.
Another category challenge is that some products, especially pouches designed to be frozen, are seasonal, selling mostly in summer.
“Pouches are limited in their usage,” he said.
At the same time, Millennials  are gravitating toward creating their own drinks, so they may prefer to buy vodka, gin or other liquor individually and create their own concoctions. “Millennials like to buy mixes and make a drink on their own,” he said.
If the segment loses Millennial support, sales will be adversely affected, added Hurst. “If you don’t get the young consumer behind you, there’s a danger that will this will fizzle out,” he said. Another reason for the sales decline in food is that consumers may be turned off by the premium pricing of many premade cocktails sold in bottles, said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark Consulting, Beullton, Calif.
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“Consumers may be gravitating to products that offer a better value,” he said.
The many new product introductions haven’t helped matters. “The market became so saturated — and consumers take time to adapt to it,” Pirko said.
Consumers may feel overwhelmed when they see dozens of brands, flavor combinations and ingredients on the labels.
“Consumers may look at the label, and not understand what the product is all about, so they buy something else,” he said.
Top Premixed Cocktail Brands
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