We often see how craft beer has revolutionised the beer category and created a genuine willingness among consumers to up-trade and pay more for a premium offer. This is no longer exclusive to the alcoholic drinks market with premium mixers and adult soft drinks forming a rapidly growing part of the drinks industry. This has been apparent over the past couple of years with events and exhibitions such as Imbibe Live! swarmed with premium soft drinks brands showcasing an explosion in the number of start-up brands in the space of brewed soft drinks and premium mixers.
One of the finest examples of this is Fever Tree. A much lauded brand in the tonic world for quality and taste, but also in terms of pushing the boundaries of what a tonic can be; redefining its role in the classic G&T. Fever Tree now offers six varieties of tonic water, if you include their bitter lemon equivalent named ‘Lemon Tonic’. The entire premise of their offer that “if three-quarters of your cocktail is the mixer, make sure you’re using the best” has tapped into previously latent consumer needs and the latest movements towards premiumisation and responsible drinking (drink better, not more).
The way in which Fever Tree has cleverly positioned themselves into a premium mixer rather than a premium tonic has enabled their natural expansion into other areas – most recently with their release of a Madagascan Cola drink; targeted at whiskey and rum drinkers. What they have so successfully done in the world of gin is now likely to expand across to other spirt mixers. By adding a premium angle on the spirit mixer category, it has helped to dispel the juvenile and high energy perceptions that these drinks tend to be more associated with. The role of a spirit mixer is being redefined as a sophisticated beverage to enjoy slowly; rather than an energising, high-alcohol-content party drink.
This transition towards premium mixers has placed soft drinks at the heart of the alcoholic beverages industry and has implications for not only established and start-up soft drink brands, but also the wider alcohol category. In the spirit of ‘drink better, not more’, premium soft drinks can be mixed with spirits for a quality and flavoursome drink but also consumed on their own for those who wish to join the social scene without the alcohol; something previously difficult to do with soft drink offerings aimed primarily at children in most pubs, bars and restaurants. This is something the likes of Fentimans and Bundaberg have done, positioning themselves as a soft drink and alcohol substitution rather than specifically a mixer; and the direction that Fever Tree may decide to shift towards in the future.
What is perhaps more concerning for breweries, however, is that consumers now have a viable alternative to craft beers and ciders during lower-key occasions; and you can be sure they’re willing to pay more for it.