Ready-to-Drink Cocktails are Growing Fast
Canadian craft producer Black Fly credits quality and convenience for driving sales
LONDON, Ont. — They’re easy, they’re accessible and, most importantly, they taste great.
Put those three factors together, and it is easy to understand why there continues to be consistent growth in the Ready-to-Drink (RTD) pre-mixed drinks sector in Canada. According to Statistics Canada — which classifies RTD beverages in its Ciders, Coolers and Other Refreshment Beverages (CCORBs) category — sales increased more than 8% from 2016 to 2017, and have increased an average of 6.4% annually over the past five years. While beer remains the strongest alcohol sector in Canada in volume and sales, RTDs are the fastest growing.
“Ready-to-drinks are a hugely important sector in Canada’s beverage alcohol industry, accounting for more than $254 million in sales in Ontario alone,” says Cathy Siskind-Kelly, who co-founded Black Fly Beverage Company in 2005 with her husband Rob Kelly. “When we were starting out, we saw how Canadians were embracing craft beer and realized there was an opportunity to introduce craft-produced spirit based RTDs.”
Statistics Canada’s annual report on the , released last month, revealed that the Ready-to-Drink sector collectively sold 167 million litres in 2016-17, an increase of 6.8% over the previous year. That is equivalent to 20 bottles of pre-mixed drinks for every Canadian over legal drinking age.
While Beer sales have been relatively flat in Canada, RTD sales increases are more than double what is seen in wines and spirits. For Black Fly, a significant brand in the RTD space, growth has far outpaced the category as a whole at more than 23-40% compounded growth for the past six years.
Black Fly was the first company in more than 100 years to receive a distillery licence in Ontario. It’s small batch craft mixed drinks are made with quality ingredients like vodka, tequila, rum, whisky and gin, real juices, cane sugar (not HFC) and are significantly less sweet than traditional RTDs. This recipe for success has propelled Black Fly to be the seventh largest domestic producer of RTDs in Canada.
“Today’s RTD consumers are savvy,” says Siskind-Kelly. “But it’s about more than convenience. People want quality. When it comes to entertaining, having a variety of bar-quality, spirit-mixed drinks provides an instant bar that people can be confident their guests will enjoy. Best of all, without having to stock all the ingredients and take time to mix cocktails, serving quality RTDs let’s you spend your party enjoying the party.”
Based in London, Ont., Black Fly Beverage Company has an extensive roster of more than 22 RTD mixed drinks sold in every Canadian province and eight U.S. states. These include signature flavours like Black Fly Vodka Cranberry, Tequila Margarita & Vodka Grapefruit sold in Black Fly’s unique non-breakable 400mL bottles in four-packs and a variety of cans. New 2018 flavours include Vodka Mixed Berry (four-pack) Vodka Crushed Orange (473 mL cans) and a new line of ultra-light drinks that has Black Fly flying off store shelves. Lemon Lime Vodka Soda Fizz and Grapefruit Gin Soda FIZZ mixed drinks, Black Fly’s lightest and least sweet offering, are available across Canada in six–pack 355 mL cans.
“Everything is about convenience, quality, value and of course great taste in our category,” says Rob Kelly. “It is a booming sector that has broad appeal across age groups, and for good reason.”
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About Black Fly Beverage Company
Since 2005, after receiving the first distillery license granted in Ontario in more than 100 years, Black Fly has launched more than 22 flavours of craft produced, significantly less sweet vodka, tequila, rum and gin mixed drinks that include flagship flavours like Black Fly Vodka Cranberry, Tequila Margarita, Vodka Grapefruit and Long Island Iced Tea. Consumers have embraced this unique brand that continues to innovate and deliver bar quality mixed drinks in a host of great formats that include bottles and cans. All Canadian craft-produced Black Fly mixed drinks are made with real juices, lightly sweetened with cane sugar (not high fructose corn syrup), blended with real spirits (6% or 7% alc./vol.) including Mexican Tequila. In addition to Black Fly’s highly popular signature 400mL bottles (in four-packs), and trendy Black Fly Sours in single serve 473 mL cans, Black Fly’s newest drink creations are ultra light and extremely low in sugar at half the sweetness of their previously least sweet Vodka Cranberry. Black Fly Lemon Lime Vodka Soda Fizz and Black Fly Grapefruit Gin Soda Fizz mixed drinks that launched this spring in 355mL 6-packs are creating a buzz for this innovative company. Today Black Fly is sold in every Canadian province and territory and eight U.S. states.