Pepper Peng
Pepper Peng is a Food and Drink Research Analyst at Mintel.

Recently, there has been a new trend of cocktails in China, where food bloggers on social media platforms such as Douyin or Xiaohongshu are teaching people how to make “summer cocktails” – put a lot of different fruits, add some beer or spirits, and voila! A big bottle of delicious-looking fruit punch.

In fact, the popularity of at-home cocktails began during the pandemic, when offline dining and entertainment venues were largely closed and consumers had to start drinking at home, especially in first-tier cities, where some liquor brands, as well as O2O retailers such as Fresh Hema, are offering DIY cocktail packages for home delivery. Mintel data found that more than three quarters of consumers said they had drunk Western spirits with family or friends over dinner at home in the past year.

On the other hand spirits such as liqueurs have become more accessible to consumers in recent years due to their taste, and consumers are starting to pay more and more attention to cocktails. This has increased their willingness to try new and different flavors of cocktails, as well as lowered the threshold for DIY cocktails at home. DIY cocktails at home or convenience stores have also become popular content on social media such as Xiaohongshu.

Of course, what inspiration does this new cocktail trend give other liquor brands, especially pre-mixed cocktails (low alcohol content drinks)?

The core business value logic of pre-mixed cocktails competition

The fact is, after years of market education, Chinese consumers have a better understanding of cocktails and pre-mixed cocktails. The development of social media and the Internet has made this Western drinking culture popular, and for young consumers, drinking pre-mixed drinks is more of a relaxing and stress-relieving activity.

On the other hand, the group of female consumers and young consumers has expanded. Unlike traditional liquor and beer, premixed cocktails have a lower alcohol content and are more palatable, making them a very friendly introductory choice for all of these groups to try alcoholic beverages. At the same time, consumption occasions are also more diversified, and consumers prefer to drink premixed drinks in a variety of casual and relaxing scenarios.

Overall, according to monthly tracking data from Mintel, more than 78 consumers have consumed alcoholic beverages every month since the end of February 2020. And consistently more than 10% of consumers spent more on alcoholic beverages. This indicates that the consumer base for alcoholic beverages remains large.

Novelty taste and texture are the two major factors influencing purchase

On the one hand, the group of female consumers and young consumers has expanded. New flavors such as fruit flavors and textures such as bubbles, which are more palatable, are very friendly entry options for these groups to try alcoholic beverages.

On the other hand, consumers’ tastes and expectations for beverages in the broad sense (especially also consumed under recreational venues) have become higher due to the rise of tea drink stores. Some of the flavors that are popular in tea stores are gradually being extended to the premixed beverage industry.

Even more, online purchasing channels can expose consumers to more novel flavors, facilitate increased product exposure, and allow consumers to try new things while reducing the cost of experimentation for companies.

What we think

For the future, pre-mixed drinks will focus more on further enhancing consumer awareness and cultivating consumer habits (especially young and female consumers) for pre-mixed drinks and even spirits. So the attribute of relaxation and stress relief will continue to be amplified and try to be equated with pre-drinks. According to Mintel data, nearly three in five consumers say they consume alcoholic beverages for relaxation. So the consumption scene of alcoholic beverages would be more relaxed, casual occasions; as for taste, alcohol with a tea-drinks taste can also enhance this attribute of relaxation. 

Of course, we can also learn more from the developed premixed drinks market, such as Japan or the United States. For example, in addition to the various fruit flavors, the Japanese premix industry is now emphasizing the variety and origin of the fruit to highlight the uniqueness of the flavor. Technically, various new technologies for bubbles and crispness are also worth learning from.

For the U.S. and other Western countries, it’s more about learning from their drinking culture. For example, the drinking culture of mulled wine is being hyped up by the pre-drinking industry in the winter of 2020.