Premium positioning: Fast-growing Asia RTD cocktail category ‘will become a mainstay’ in alcohol sector
The idea of NIO Cocktails was conceived when its founders observed that ready-to-drink (RTD) products generally had low ABV and “poor quality”.
This led to the birth of the firm’s pre-mixed cocktails, which are aimed at changing consumer attitude towards such RTD products by providing a drinking experience comparable to that of a top bar.
“Our products are catered for consumers who want the alternative of a quality cocktail that they can enjoy in the comfort of their homes, alone or with friends, and whenever they can’t go out to a cocktail bar. RTD cocktails have become one of the fastest-growing categories in the alcoholic beverage industry in recent years, and will continue to be in the future,” Alessandro Palmari, co-founder and sales director of NIO Cocktails, told FoodNavigator-Asia.
According to Palmari, data from British organisation Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) indicated that UK citizens spent more than EUR400m (approximately USD436m) on RTD products in the last 12 months.
“This is a global trend, not just an American or European one,” he added.
Within the RTD cocktails sector, there are various categories ranging from low-cost and FMCG products to premium options.
“Unlike mass market products that are mostly sold in cans, we focus on quality ingredients, recipes by Italy’s number one mixologist Patrick Pistolesi, and unique, environmentally friendly packaging.
“We only use premium spirits from the most important distillers across the globe. We proudly showcase our partners on the back of each cocktail pack, and we don’t use any additives or preservatives. All our cocktails are mixed in Italy, a guarantee of design and craft that is famous all over the world. There will be room for everyone in the market, but it is certain that the consumer will choose brands with a clear and consistent positioning,” said Palmari.
On the same note, Palmari highlighted that for companies that have adopted a premium positioning, the choice of distribution channels is crucial.
“We want to be available in the best hotels, and fine foods and liquor stores. You will never see NIO Cocktails on the shelves of a supermarket because it would only confuse our consumer without bringing real added value,” he emphasised.
Big steps to take
Headquartered in Italy, NIO Cocktails has presence in more than 20 countries, including Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
“We have grown exponentially in foreign markets from the start, but there has been a notable peak in growth since 2020,” said Palmari.
Singapore was one of the first countries that the firm wanted to distribute in due to the city-state’s renowned mixology scene as well as “top ranking in terms of e-commerce and purchasing power of citizens”.
On its website, consumers can either select from recommended cocktail sets or personalise their own cocktail box (of three, six or nine packets), which will be delivered to their doorstep on the next working day.
“Singapore is a successful market for us, as both B2B distribution and e-commerce sales have achieved a double-digit year-over-year growth,” he shared.
Nevertheless, the firm regards itself as a “start-up with big steps still to go in all areas”.
“We are planning on restructuring our company while continuing to fulfil consumer needs through our gold-standard craftsmanship.
“Currently, we produce 2.5m [packs of] cocktails a year, almost maxing out our production capacity. We have already approved to double our production line, which will be completed by the end of the year. This is one of the steps we must take to meet the challenges of the future, and establish ourselves not only as the company that offers the best cocktails, but also the most reliable for our distribution partners,” Palmari concluded.