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Margarita tops US list of most valuable cocktails in on-trade

The Margarita has topped the list as the most valuable cocktail in the US on-trade, according to new stats by Nielsen that chart the evolving tastes of consumers across the day and in different states.

The new data from the retail analyst showed the tequila-based drink was the top choice of US consumers, with around 56% picking the classic cocktail. The average price they’re prepared to pay for the tippled was was around $9.49, slightly higher than the average cocktail price of $9 – or $8 during happy hour – and higher than the level that most consumers say they’re willing to pay for a standard cocktail.

A Martini was the next favourite drink to make the top five, followed by an Old Fashioned and Mimosa, with Moscow Mules completing the line-up.

Nielsen’s CGA’s Check Level Insights Pool (CLIP), which provides a granular picture of cocktail sales in on-premise environments, found that around 28% of consumers across the US are drinking cocktails out of the home.

The data also provides a snapshot of the most popular cocktails at different times of the day and how this evolves, unsurprisingly highlighting the early evening as the prime hour for cocktails. It is at night that consumers are most willing to pay more for their favourite drink – the average spend rises from $8.50 in the morning to $9.75 and $10 later into the night, with consumers least likely to shell out more than $8 in the afternoon (possibly due to the prevalence of Happy Hour). However consumers in New York and Chicago were prepared to spend above the national average, up to $11.00 in the evening and $11.95 after midnight.

Cocktails round the clock

Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and non-alcoholic skinny Margaritas tend to dominate the pre-midday spot, while Margaritas and Martini’s lead the afternoon and early evening list across the whole of the US, with Martinis and Long Island Ice Teas ruling after midnight.

The data also highlighted differences in different states, with Chicago bucking the Margarita trend entirely, plumping for the Old Fashioned  and Mimosa in the top two spots, while the Manhattan bumped Margaritas off the list completely. There was also “significant variation” in consumer preference across all markets, the data showed, which it said demonstrated the need for customising the menu according to the region in order to meet consumer demand.

“For retailers that operate in more than one region, a blanket menu will not maximise sales in the way a more individual menu would,” it said.

Boston for example also saw the inclusion of the Expresso Martini in its top five while Miami consumers placed the Mojito in the second spot while also including a flavoured Margarita.

Matt Crompton, Client Solutions Director at Nielsen CGA said that analyzing the on-premise landscape through only one lens was insufficient to provide a full profile of the complex cocktail scene, and the new, granular data was taking cocktail sales measurement “to the next level” by enabling suppliers and on-premise operators to meet the changing demands of consumers across the day and in different areas.

“Having a robust yet tailored cocktail offering can be a key differentiator for chains and independents alike. Cocktails allow the trade to offer a point of theatre, and provide suppliers with a key entry point to their brands,” he said.

“The CLIP data will empower our spirits clients to recognize consumer preferences across individual days and time periods where they haven’t been able to before, thereby opening the door for retailers and suppliers to meet consumers where they are, when they are.”

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