Mixers take the cake for being the fastest-growing carbonated drinks category with the rise of premium accompanying that of health awareness – not to mention the rise of ‘craft’ and dark spirits preferences – all leading to healthy demand for a variety of quality mixers in the on-trade.
This new wider range of mixers can also be used as part of the on-trade appeal to people abstaining from drinking or those aiming to moderate their alcohol intake.
Changing mixers market
Mixers, just like those drinking them, are changing.
What had been a conventionally narrow category has blossomed into a multi-faceted one that has a mixer type for nearly every occasion depending on the curiosity of the consumer. This has become increasingly manifest in the world of mocktails.
Other emerging (and emerged) trends in the mixers market include the arrival of low-sugar options where the days of sugar-laden mixers find themselves on the back foot.
Today’s mixers can be found in long NoLo drinks (which themselves reflect a growing openness to the concept of avoiding higher alcohol beverages) as well as in darker spirits where the mixers have been specifically designed to complement these darker spirits.
And suppliers of mixers for darker spirits believe that publicans can take advantage of this through customising mocktails to the outlet in question or by putting a unique twist on some classic favourites.
A good mixer is one that enhances and complements the flavour of a spirit rather than overpowering it.
The mixer market is no different from the spirits market or any other beverage market in that today’s consumer seeks a quality product and is prepared to pay for it.
This is evident in that the classic combination of gin & “tonic” isn’t cutting it any more. Many customers now look for something different and specific. People today tend to know their tonic waters and want to experiment with different taste differentials within the tonic water category. Now they can. And they’re far more adventurous about doing that.
Soft drinks innovations
Market analyst CGA in the UK has found that soft drinks innovations offer something new and exciting to consumers, especially considering that nearly nine in 10 consumers like to try different new drinks when out in the trade.
CGA’s BrandTrack from July 2019 found that – when asked – 45% of consumers said they’d tried something new or different over the last six months.
Soft drinks can be significantly affected by non-category influences such as the growth in spirits consumption, particularly gin – we’re already seeing suppliers look ahead to try and tap in to the next spirits category boom.
UK market analyst CGA’s recent Drink Tank Soft Drinks report last November identifies a number of soft drinks trends such as:
With food – In the UK, the sector is ranked as the top choice for consumers for food-led occasions. And while it’s behind Lager in drink-led, it’s still the number two sector here as well.
Health – Last year 66% of adult consumers in the UK agreed in a Brand Track survey (in April 2019) that they ‘proactively try to lead a healthy lifestyle’. This was up seven percentage points on the April 2017 figure.
Some 59% of UK soft drinks consumers agreed that they’d ‘like to see more healthy soft drinks on offer’.
Premium – Premium mixers are now stocked in over half of the UK’s on-trade universe; two-thirds of this distribution now sits in mainstream venues – a clear sign that premium spirits and particularly the gin trend has had a huge effect on soft drinks.
Nolos – No alcohol/Lo alcohol drinks are one of the key trends across the trade and one which will have an impact on soft drinks, offering a genuine threat to the sector with one-third of UK consumers having drunk a NoLo alternative in the last six months.
CGA’s BrandTrack July 2019 finds that NoLo beers, spirits, wines and cocktails don’t just appeal to teetotallers. Only 26% of teetotallers report drinking a NoLo in the last six months, lower than the 32% average reported.
As NoLos form a category aimed at the masses, it’s a huge competitor to the soft drinks market, especially considering that consumers also believe that soft drinks ranges are currently too narrow and they’d therefore desire a wider product range offering.
“It will take strong support from suppliers to promote their premium or adult-targeted products to ensure consumers stay in the traditional softs category and are not lost to the noisy NoLo sector,” states the report.
NoLos offer a genuine threat to the sector, but premium offerings and well-executed New Product Development can defend against this, believes CGA.
The inspiration for the Poachers range of premium natural mixers was found in the ingredients grown on a centuries-old family farm located in beautiful County Wexford, Ireland. The company founded and owned by Irishman Brendan Colbert in 2017, now exports to over 8 countries and counts some of the best high end bars and restaurants as customers.
“Our vision at Poachers was to create something uniquely Irish in its appeal and in doing so we use high quality natural and indigenous ingredients across our entire range. Our focus has always been on lower sugar, natural finishes that don’t compromise on flavour. We see the significant effort that a lot of producers put into making great spirits and we want to add to that and enhance it.
“As the growth of Gin and Tonic continues globally, Poachers have also expanded their Great Taste award winning range to cater for other premium long drinks. We are very excited to be launching our premium Ginger Beer this September that we make with Irish apples. We see a great enthusiasm in the Irish consumer not only for more premium spirits but also a willingness to experiment with flavour and fun. As an Irish long drinks company we want to be part of that journey in a very high quality way.”
The premiumisation of the mixer and soft drinks category
Mixers, the fastest-growing carbonated drinks category in Ireland, follow a rising numbers of consumers drinking less but better quality, with particular growth in the premium soft drinks market.
Combined with the long-term trend of lighter, lower calorie, lower sugar drinks, this means that brands have had to broaden their product offering to include ‘healthier choices’ that strengthen consumers’ overall drinking experience in terms of taste, serve and enjoyment.
At the forefront of this is The London Essence Company, a premium drinks brand producing elegantly distilled mixers designed to accentuate the finest spirits. At under 20kcal per 100ml, each expression is low in sugar at under 4g per 100ml and crafted without artificial sweeteners thanks to its unique use of distilled essences.
“Following the long-term trend towards sugar reduction across the world and being consumers of premium drinks ourselves, we found that many ‘premium’ options focused on natural credentials but were also very high in sugar,” said Britvic Ireland’s Brand Manager Brian Greer, “It’s important to deliver light, natural options that also have great taste to ensure overall enjoyment.”
Through its relationship with the on-trade and conversations with world-leading bartenders, London Essence recognised that high sugar mixers often overpowered the characteristics of the spirit partner instead of enhancing them.
The brand therefore took inspiration from its heritage in creating distilled essences capturing the flavour of the finest ingredients to deliver aromatic signature notes and great taste with only a dusting of sugar.
A huge shift change has seen people reducing their alcohol intake leading to an increase in the NoLo drinks category here too.
Capitalising on opportunities existing in other drink categories (namely wine and vodka) and helping deliver significant growth in its adult portfolio, London Essence has launched a range of flavoured soda waters. The range can be mixed to create unique twists to white wine or Prosecco spritzers and elevating the Vodka Soda serve to new heights.
“A sign of a sophisticated mixer is when they can be enjoyed in any form – with or without a spirit – to satisfy all drinking occasions and preferences,” adds Brian.
The London Essence Company welcomed a new Original Indian Tonic Water to its collection last September, light and low in calories, with naturally-sourced sweetness and no artificial ingredients. It features a precise balance of Lemon and Lime combined with aromatic Calamansi extracts to deliver a unique tropical note, layered with a hint of Chinotto and Juniper for a bitter tonic finish.
The London Essence Company collection includes: Original Indian Tonic, Classic London Tonic, Grapefruit & Rosemary Tonic, Bitter Orange & Elderflower Tonic, Pomelo & Pink Pepper Tonic, Delicate Ginger Ale, Perfectly Spiced Ginger Beer, Soda Water, Rhubarb & Cardamom Crafted Soda and White Peach & Jasmine Crafted Soda.
Club Mixers: lifting Irish sprits since 1852
Even since unveiling a complete relaunch of its iconic range back in 2017, changes continue to evolve for the better at the number One Irish Mixer brand Club.
The brand recently underwent liquid reformulation, reducing the sugar content to below the sugar tax threshold in both Club Mixers Tonic Water and the Club Mixer Ginger, joining the rest of the mixer portfolio.
The two quickly received quality taste awards with the new Tonic Water successfully regaining a Superior Taste Award (3-Star) from the International Taste and Quality Institute and Ginger Ale gained its first ITQI accolade with a Superior Taste Award (2-Star). The Tonic Water was first awarded this accolade back in 2017 when it relaunched with a new look highlighting its heritage and its improved and award-winning taste.
Club Mixers are rolling-out a significant marketing campaign including experiential and sampling, consumer PR, trade press, Point of Purchase communications and digital support as the brand looks not only to retain its relevance with its loyal consumers but also recruit new drinkers.
“It was very important for us to keep such an iconic Irish brand contemporary and relevant to the modern consumer,” said Britvic Ireland’s Brian Greer, “Our focus has always been to deliver a unique and superior taste experience which is why being internationally recognised as delivering an exceptional taste was such a proud moment for the brands’ key varieties in Tonic water and Ginger Ale and reaffirms the strength of our offering in such a competitive space. We’re delighted with our two new liquids, ensuring we kept to our key objective of not compromising on taste when reducing the sugar content in each.”
Club Mixers are the perfect accompaniment to spirits, expertly designed to blend deliciously with gins, vodkas and whiskeys, he added.