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Smirnoff owner Diageo has expanded its presence in the ready-to-drink category with the purchase of vodka-based brand Loyal 9 Cocktails.
Diageo purchased the ‘rapidly-growing’ ready-to-drink (RTD) brand from American whiskey and gin producer Sons of Liberty Spirits Company for an undisclosed sum.
Founded in 2019 in Rhode Island, US, Loyal 9 Cocktails is made with vodka, 100% ‘real’ fruit and ‘high-quality’ ingredients.
The 9% ABV canned range comprises: lemonade, mixed berry lemonade, watermelon lemonade, lemonade and iced tea, and cranberry lime.
Mike Reppucci, CEO of Sons of Liberty Spirits Company, said: “True to Loyal 9’s revolutionary roots, we created this brand to introduce something even better for our consumers.
“Loyal 9 is a new and delicious RTD that uses great quality ingredients, is full flavoured and without compromise. It’s been a fantastic adventure to create and lead Loyal 9’s development to this stage, and we’re excited to be passing the baton to Diageo to take this great brand to the next level.”
According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis data cited by Diageo, the RTD sector is the fastest growing category in alcohol in the US, growing by 20% between 2016 and 2019. The category had a retail sales value of more than US$7.8 billion in 2019, IWSR figures showed.
Diageo added that the RTD sector has been boosted by at-home consumption of cocktails and demand for convenient formats.
Debra Crew, president, Diageo North America, said: “Loyal 9 hits an RTD ‘sweet spot’, merging American consumers’ growing appreciation for better quality ingredients with the full flavour lemonade they love, and a classic Americana feel.
“We have a clear strategy to build and diversify our RTD offerings across price points and consumer segments, and Loyal 9 is a great addition to our portfolio, which is also growing through the recent acquisition of Lone River and innovations from several of our brands.”
Diageo recently added Texan hard seltzer brand Lone River to its portfolio, and unveiled new RTD offerings for Crown Royal, Tanqueray, Ketel One, and Haig Club.
The company’s North America arm is investing US$80 million in expanding its RTD production capacity to more than 25m cases annually.