Popular beverages like carbonated soda have been slacking in sales, due to growing health awareness and competition. Plus, after decades of market domination, customers are losing appetite for old, gate-keeper beverage brands and are looking for newer, more trendy beverages.
That’s why Ready-to-drink Beverage has been gaining popularity in recent years. They offer brands a chance to refresh their image, with innovative beverage categories to impress customers and develop new markets.
What are Ready to Drink (RTD) beverages?
Ready to Drink (RTD) beverages are pre-made, packaged drinks ready for consumption, without any additional mixing or preparing. RTD beverages usually come in 4 forms of packaging:
- Bottles (Plastic, Glass, Metal, etc.)
- Aluminum Can
- Paper Box (TetraPak)
These drinks are often mass-produced, and sold on supermarket shelves. Companies use RTD beverages to create drinks with longer shelf life that can be marketed to a broader audience.
RTD beverages are increasingly popular with consumers. They offer great convenience: RTD drinks are available in almost every store, they are convenient to drink instantly, and can often be resealed to drink later.
Ready to drink is a subcategory of Ready to Serve (RTS). Ready to Serve is the category of all pre-made, ready to consume food and beverage products. It can be divided into Ready-to-serve Food and Ready-to-serve (a.k.a Ready-to-drink) Beverages.
Ready to Drink Beverage Market
The global Ready-to-drink Beverage market is valued at $749.14 billion USD in 2023. The market is expected to have substantial growth in the next decade, with a CAGR of 6.35% to reach $1,155.14 billion USD in 2030.
Within this market, the Asia-Pacific region is the key area, valued at $250 billion USD in 2023. This high performance is mainly due to the region’s strong preference for RTD Tea and Coffee, alongside the fast expansion of the Millenial and Gen Z demographics in countries such as China, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc.
The RTD market is divided into 3 main segments:
- Dairy-based Beverages (like Yogurt drinks or Kefir)
- Others (Hard fermented tea like Kombucha)
- Fruit & Vegetable Juices (Bottled or canned Juices)
- Non-fermented Dairy Beverages (like fruit milk drinks
- Sports & Energy Drinks (with brands like Redbull or Monster Energy)
- Functional Water (enhanced waters with electrolytes or flavored water)
- Carbonated Soft Drinks (carbonated sodas like Coca cola or Pepsi)
- Malt Based (malt-based RTD alcoholic beverages like hard seltzers)
- Spirit Based (spirt-based canned cocktails, like Vodka Spritz)
- Wine based (usually canned wine drinks)
Trending types of Ready to Drink Beverages
Customer preferences are changing rapidly. The RTD beverage market is also quickly evolving to catch up with such explosive demands. Below are the newest RTD beverages that are really popular with the new consumer base.
The pandemic has forever changed consumer habits. Being forced to stay indoors means having to recreate out-of-home moments with take-away products. That means customers have to take their favorite cocktails home to drink, which seems impossible.
This segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.32% until 2027. Besides being a convenient alternative to cocktail bars, RTD Cocktails are also popular for health-conscious drinkers. With relatively lower ABV than traditional cocktails and other hard seltzers or beers, RTD cocktails are a way to limit alcohol consumption.
Similar to RTD Cocktails, RTD Mocktails provide an alternative bartending experience to younger audiences. But, the product resonates more with people trying to completely avoid alcohol; whether for health or other personal reasons.
Kombucha is a rising star in the functional beverage space. Its rich probiotics and antioxidant contents are associated with many significant health benefits. This means Kombucha is now considered a functional drink that can help with consumers’ daily diets. The drink is now on the top of their mind when making a purchase for healthy diet additions.
Hard seltzers have seen a massive boom in recent years, with the rise of brands like White Claw, selling out across the globe. Though their expansion has been slowed recently, it only signifies the shift in consumer preferences towards other spiked RTD beverages like RTD cocktail, hard tea, and hard lemonade.
Ciders are growing in popularity among younger consumers. With a more fruity flavor profile and lower ABV than beers and other spirits, ciders are a great introduction to the world of alcoholic beverages for young consumers. Strongbow has been quick to capture this trend and market its brand towards young consumers with an active lifestyle.
Ready to drink Cold-brew and Iced Coffee
Cold brew is the biggest thing to happen to coffee this decade. Its market size is estimated to reach $1.63 billion USD in 2025. With the same performance boosting caffeine, but relatively less calories than a soda or energy drink, RTD cold brews are hitting the spot for Millenial and Gen-Z consumers.
Growth Opportunity for Ready to Drink Beverage Brands
Despite the drastic effects of the cost of living crisis, the Ready to Drink segment is still continuously growing, with strong predictions into the 2030s. This growth is in part due to the shifting preferences of consumers in the current market.
The rise of ‘chill’ RTD alcoholic beverages
Younger consumers are looking for a more accessible way to enjoy drinking culture. The traditional cocktail bar experience, with high-brow spirits no longer appeal to the easy-going Gen Z and Millenials.
That’s why milder RTD Alcoholic drink mixes, ciders and hard-seltzers are selling out everywhere. They fit into the needs of this quickly expanding demographic.
Innovative and exciting brand positions
Gen-Zs are now the main influencers on FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Good) trends. With a large part of the labor force now including Gen-Zs, their preferences and decisions have had an effect on the overall economy.
And with the popularity of social platforms like Tiktok and Facebook among Gen Z, beverage brands need to engage younger audiences with an innovative and exciting image. With the newness and flexibility of RTD beverages, brands are free to produce creative content and marketing campaigns that resonate with the new generation of consumers.
Purchasing decisions based on health and wellness
Consumers are increasingly aware of the health effects of what they consume. They now have the ability to scrutinize the label and identify all ingredients that have potential negative health effects. Details such as fat, sugar, colorings, flavorings, stabilizers, preservatives are influencing customer’s perception of these products.
Thus, beverages with a minimal ingredient list and nutrition label are perceived as healthier. And, newer RTD beverages such as seltzers, cider, or enhanced flavored water have very little use for these ingredients, especially sugar. They could easily create a clean label product that appeals to consumers’ health focus.Innovative and exciting brand positions
After nearly a century, the entire beverage market has been saturated with major brand names like Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle. They have long dominated the overall FMCG market with competitive pricing strategies and market-leading product development.
In order to boost revenue and find new markets, beverage brands are now creating new niche products, targeting specific segments. These are often specialty products with unique features – and higher price tags – to give birth to new revenue streams.
Functional beverages to create new market segments
The traditional role of a beverage is to quench thirst and provide certain nutritional supplements found in fruits and vegetables. However, as the modern lifestyle becomes more hectic, customers are looking for specific drinks that can support their daily routine.
It can be a sports drink that helps players recover after a match, a caffeinated drink to push through deadlines, or a specific probiotic drink to aid with stomach problems. These drinks are now amassing a huge number of loyal customers, who make up an entirely new segment.
New distribution channels
There’s more to the FMCG sales channels than just brick-and-mortar stores. After the pandemic, customers’ buying behaviors are forever changed. Online shopping peaked during the period, but this trend is still retaining momentum even in 2023.
E-commerce is now bigger than ever. And with younger customers’ increasing preference for shopping online, E-commerce platforms are quickly becoming a major channel for RTD beverages.
Most notable brands in the Ready to Drink Category
Here are some of the biggest brand names for trending RTD beverage types.
Starbucks is the largest coffee chain in the world. And in 1996, Starbucks partnered with PepsiCo to launch their first Starbucks bottled Frappuccino. Since then, Starbucks has been dominating the Ready-to-drink Coffee market in the US.
Up until 2023, Starbucks has expanded its RTD coffee line to include both bottled and canned packaging, with different flavors like
- Starbucks® Chilled Classics
- Starbucks Doubleshot® Espresso
- Starbucks Frappuccino® Chilled Coffee
White Claw Hard Seltzer
The White Claw Hard Seltzer brand was launched in 2016, as part of the Mark Anthony Group. The seltzer is made of a gluten-free, malt-based alcohol with fruit flavor.
White Claw is the biggest player in the US’ hard seltzer market, with over 18% share of the $17 billion USD market in 2023.
Celsius fitness drink is an enhanced sports drink with formulations specially designed for athletic lifestyles. They are famous for their enhanced water recipes with performance boosting ingredients. In 2023, Celsius’ revenue is $1.4 billion USD.
Monster Energy is an energy drink manufactured by Monster Beverage Corporation – which was purchased by Coca Cola in 2015. Monster energy drinks are one of the most famous energy drinks around the world, dominating this segment of the RTD beverage market. Their revenue in 2023 is $6.3 billion USD.
GT’s Living Kombucha
GT’s Living food is a popular supplier of functional food and beverage, with an emphasis on health probiotic food like Kefir, Coconut Yogurt and Adaptogenic tea. Kombucha is GT’s Living’s best selling product, with over $275 million USD in sales in 2023.
Strongbow is the most popular apple cider brand in the UK, with over 109 billion pounds in sales in 2023. Their flagship product is RTD apple cider packaged in glass bottles and aluminum cans. Strongbow’s apple cider comes in 4 iconic flavors:
- Gold Apple
- Mixed Berry