The retailer backed Mintel's forecast that pre-mixed category sales would grow more than five-fold, from £25m to £140m, as consumers continued to be lured by the format's affordable price, convenience of use and NPD.
Despite a "very low" awareness of the category, sales had rocketed 160% in Asda between May and July this year, said spirits buyer Chris Brooks. "Our challenge is to get it under the noses of customers," he said. "Once you see awareness grow, sales could get to £140m easily."
Tax hikes on booze and the convenience of the format were key factors driving growth, he added. "Duty increases that take a bottle of spirits to over £20 are off-putting for customers, but premixes mean people can buy into the drinks they like for a pound or two."
Following a range review in April, Asda doubled its shelf space for pre-mixed cans, introduced eight new lines and, it claimed, the first gondola-end promotion in the UK. It also launched free can carriers, similar to those used for wine. "Rarely in BWS do you get true innovation like this," said Brooks. "We took space away from traditional alcopops, which were in slight decline, and gave it to pre-mixed cans. They are now having a bit of a halo effect on the other RTDs and increasing interest in the fixture. Slowly, we will see all the big spirit brands create their own."
Pre-mixed cans attracted different consumers from alcopops, with people buying them to relax in the evening, he added.
Brown-Forman, which this month launched Jack Daniel's & Ginger, said it viewed the category as a "real growth opportunity" and was investing for the first time on an above-the-line campaign to drive awareness.
Meanwhile, Diageo invested £8m to support its eight-strong pre-mixed line-up this March. "Diageo GB sees pre-mixed cans as a high-potential growth area," confirmed Charlie Brown, innovations commercialisation manager.