CGA reveals how to succeed in a polarised mixed drinks market

While the majority of consumers are sticking with tried and trusted cocktail serves there is a growing demand for experimentation within cocktails. Alongside this the market is increasingly polarised between the desire for premium, high quality serves and a demand for lower priced, good-value cocktails.
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Those are among the headlines from CGA by NIQ’s Mixed Drinks Report, which is packed with insights to help businesses flourish in this competitive segment. It draws on a powerful combination of research sources, including a new survey of 1,000 nationally representative On Premise cocktail drinkers and in-depth volumetric sales data to deliver expert analysis of market trends and drinkers’ preferences.


The report reveals that consumers remain attached to tried-and-trusted cocktails, and nearly half (47%) say they prefer classic combinations. However, this number has declined in the last year as more consumers experiment with their cocktail choices.


A fifth (21%) prefer signature cocktails (i.e. a cocktail that is unique to the venue they are in) — up by 3 percentage points year-on-year—while 16% favour modern cocktails (i.e. a cocktail that is new to the market). While consumers also have a larger range of ‘go-to’ cocktail serves, on average cocktail drinkers have 4.5 cocktail serves in their repertoire—0.6 more than a year ago.


Moreover, a third (33%) of consumers select a signature cocktail serve every time or almost every time when drinking cocktails, showing there is a sizeable core of experimental mixed drinks consumers for venues and suppliers to target.


Alongside this trend is a willingness to premiumise mixed drinks. Consumers now expect to spend £10.15 on a cocktail—81 pence more than a year ago. Four in five (81%) premium cocktail consumers say they are likely to pay more for a better-quality cocktail. However, a sizeable group is less willing to pay extra, and is sharply focused on value as their spending continues to be squeezed.


The last year has seen more polarisation between those seeking premium (34%) (i.e. high-quality cocktails made with top-shelf ingredients, offering a sophisticated drinking experience) and value cocktails (29%) (affordable cocktails that provide a satisfactory taste at a low cost), with the number in the middle ground who choose both (37%) falling by 10 percentage points since early 2023. The shift highlights a growing divide between those focused on high-quality, sophisticated drinking experiences; and those with limited budgets, who are prioritising affordability. For drinks suppliers, this emphasizes the importance of understanding these distinct consumer groups and optimising cocktail strategies to effectively cater to their habits and preferences.


This highlights the increasing importance for operators to have a wide range of cocktail options available, both in terms of the spirits, flavour profiles and ingredients included; and in their range of pricing, to cater to the growing demand for premium and value cocktails.


The Mixed Drinks Report provides many more insights into consumers’ behaviour in the market. It shows a heavy concentration of spending at the weekend—but there have been some important shifts towards midweek and early-evening purchases, when guests are more focused on promotions and discounts. CGA’s sales measurement data in the report meanwhile points to growth in the share of cocktails like Sex on the Beach, Iced Tea and Espresso Martini, and the rising popularity of tequila, rum and specialities within mixed drinks.



Phillip Montgomery, CGA’s director of client services UK & Ireland, said: Britain’s vibrant mixed drinks market continues to provide great opportunities for operators and suppliers, but it’s become a hyper-competitive, complex and polarised landscape. Serves, innovation and careful ranging to cater for both premium and value-led drinkers will all be vital to success, and our Mixed Drinks Report is the ideal starting point for top-quality strategies. 


The H1 ‘Mixed Drinks Report’ is available to purchase now, with a second-half report to follow later in 2024. CGA by NIQ offers opportunities to tailor the findings with bespoke analysis. To learn more, click here and contact Phillip Montgomery here. 

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