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The rise of ready-to-drink premium cocktails

Richard Sager of Italian brand NIO Cocktails talks about the growing premium offering in pre-mixed cocktails.

Richard Sager NIO Cocktails

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent on-trade shutdown has led to an increase in people drinking at home and many drinks brands and venues have expanded their offerings to cater to this growth. One of the biggest changes to the market has been the explosion in ready-to-drink (RTD) premium cocktails for people to serve quickly and simply at home.

Unable to go out to bars for a top-notch cocktail, people have been looking for solutions at home. Both drinks producers and on-trade venues have answered their call, packaging up ready-to-drink cocktails that are either delivered with the necessary extras to make the full drink at home or are ready to pour straight over ice.

One brand which was ahead of the curve, but has benefitted from the increase in demand for bar-quality drinks at home, is NIO Cocktails. Launched in Italy in 2017, the brand broke into the UK market in December 2019 and has since seen exponential growth in demand from consumers and corporate customers.

As well as focusing on top ingredients and a bar-quality serve, the brand is committed to reducing its environmental impact and now uses totally recyclable packaging for its drinks.

The concept of NIO was driven by the experiences of founders Luca and Alessandro, who during home dinner parties found it hard to balance the demands of making proper cocktails with the requirements of hosting.

Richard Sager, UK general manager at NIO Cocktails, says: "We launched with a clear idea of what we wanted to focus on: choice, quality, sustainability. We are bartenders; we are Italian; we are premium. The cocktail has to taste fantastic, the brands that we use, the experience of our master bartender, the care to make sure that every touch point - website, delivery, consumer response - all shine through.

"We set ourselves a mission and we have not been cutting corners... We continue to invest in research and development to always have sustainability at front of mind. We can hold true to our values while still delivering the step change in demand for our proposition. We expended blood, sweat and tears to make sure that no element fell over when demand increased."

The pandemic has been a catalyst for significant and broad growth in the RTD marketplace: bartenders mixing cocktails at their venues for home delivery; spirits producers mixing their products into RTD cans; online cocktail retailers expanding their offerings; and cocktail delivery services springing up to meet the increased demand.

Richard stresses that while NIO Cocktails has been a beneficiary of this phenomenon, the brand was established and performing well in its own right before it happened and is not a "Covid brand".

"We are respectful of what it [Covid-19] has catalysed: a significant increase in companies doing elements of what we do in RTDs," Richard says. "NIO is there to drive a cocktail revolution and we are delighted that other pople are participating in that so consumers can understand that there is a way to achieve and enjoy bar-quality cocktails in the comfort of their own homes."

He continues: "We always felt there was an appetite for beautifully crafted RTD cocktails, but to deliver that requires more than the cocktail itself. Covid has been an accelerant for people to turn their natural curiosity into action. Also, that participation changes to 'this is phenomenal value for money'. 

"I don't anticipate that behaviouors will fundamentally change, now that people realise you can enjoy bar-quality cocktails at home. We have seen this in previous recessions, when people couldn't afford to move house so they took more pride in enjoying and experiencing at home and now that is what people are doing, expanding their repertoire of drinks to be enjoyed at home. This is what it is about for us: removing the trepidation, stress and anti-social element of making cocktails in our own home."

Next on the hoirzon for NIO is the launch of a bartending 'experience box', which will fit out cocktail enthusiasts with all the equipment to mix their own drinks at home. Richard said the brand was also looking into non-alcoholic cocktail options to expand its range. 


13 November 2020