Producers are spending big on aggressive marketing to boost RTD sales

The ready-to-drink (RTD) category may still be in the doldrums, but suppliers insist it has a very loyal audience that will be looking to splash out on favourite brands this Christmas.
While RTD activity has been minimal this year, with most brands experiencing a decline in sales, the key players have maintained commitment through aggressive marketing spend and the launch of flavour variants.
Pricing remains an issue at Christmas, with the average per litre retail price last Christmas 20p less than in 2002 and 18p less than in 2003 [ACNielsen
GB off-trade liquor category ppl w/e December 25, 2004).
“We don’t want to see the guts ripped out of the category on price again this year,” says Karen Salters, marketing director at Beverage Brands. “Although more than half of volume sales in multiple grocers in December 2004 were sold on promotion, that still left a significant proportion of RTDs selling as non-promotional stock, showing that this category isn’t just price promotion responsive.”
As part of its commitment to grow value, Beverage Brands’ WKD brand is undertaking a £4m Christmas campaign, including a £2.5m launch behind its latest range addition, WKD Red.
Diageo’s Smirnoff Ice, the leading RTD brand with 21% of volume share [ACNielsen, MAT August 6, 2005], is also launching a big Christmas campaign with a £4m marketing investment as part of a £15m spend on the Smirnoff brand.
Meanwhile, Bacardi says sales for its Half Sugar variants of Bacardi Breezer have been strong, while Richard Clarke, marketing controller at Halewood International, producer of the Red Square vodka RTD brand, says there are still opportunities in the market. Halewood brought out its Red Square Reloaded Juiced variant earlier this year, followed by the launch of Juiced Blue.