AGE WAITS for no brand. Certainly not RTD brands anyway. Becoming unfashionable is always the danger when you align a product so completely with a younger age group which is ever conscious of trends.
One of the reasons puts forward by drinks analysts and licensees alike for the decline in RTDs is they are too faddish. One minute one brand is number one, only to be replaced by another within the blink of an eye.
Conscious of this, brand owners have tried to come up with solutions. One is to try and take RTDs away from the high-tempo evening occasions and get people to drink them in a manner more in line with continental café culture.
Diageo is investing £8.5m this year alone in Quinn's, a new RTD brand, which they hope will lead consumers to drink RTDs in early evening, low-tempo occasions. It is only four per cent ABV and Diageo wants it served in a branded glass over ice.
As far as Adam Irvine, innovation commercialisation manager at Diageo sees it, it is for a totally different audience to other RTDs.
"It is targeted at 25 to 35-year-old women and therefore serve is very important, which is why it should be in a branded glass over ice," he explains.
"The glass draws you more into a group situation than a bottle does."
Not everyone is convinced by the innovation. Steve Perez, managing director of drinks brand owner GBL, says: "People's drinking habits have changed but I am not sure about new innovations like Quinn's. That product will not be around in a year's time. Reef is a similar proposition and it has been struggling. On that sort of occasion people will prefer a spirit and juice mixer."
Whatever the reservations, Adam insists Diageo is committed to Quinn's and believes the new, more relaxed, drinking occasion will catch on.
"We are looking to embed Quinn's in the market and the business is fully behind that," he says.
"We are definitely seeing more openness from the trade to put RTDs in a wider range of bars.
Don't duplicate. There is no point having two orange brands in your fridge or three blues. That is just wasted space. Pick the best seller and have the right range.
A perspective on RTDs from Steve Perez, managing director of GBL
"I've always said since the category started that it would be impossible to sustain the snowball effect (i.e. ever-growing sales) forever. The RTD sector has now certainly slowed down, but it is not in freefall.
"RTDs should be seen as another category added to people's drinks repertoire. I think the problem big brands have had is that is they have to have good marketing campaigns to succeed and when they don't they suffer.
"Look at Bacardi Breezer. It had that fantastic 'Welcome to the Latin Quarter' campaign. And then some bright spark in marketing decided to employ a load of cats! And it died.Smirnoff Ice is going to have similar problems with its new marketing campaign.
"VK is holding its own at the moment but we are not enjoying a massive sales rise. However, the brand that is flying for us at the moment is Corky's and that is down to the current popularity of the shooters market.
"What has really affected the whole sector is that our town centre customers are having a very hard time of it this year. People are going out later or not at all and staying at home. That has affected us.
"But it's about evolution, not revolution. Our most popular flavours when we launched VK were Irn Bru and Watermelon. We don't even sell them any more!
"The press issue is getting better but the problem is many of the negative articles that still appear are written by people who don't live the life that they are criticising.
"Alcopops are an easy target. There are some pretty heavy binge-drinkers in the City of London who drink fine champagne.
"In a sense the industry is partly to blame here - terminology like PPS and RTDs don't help. The press is not going to these terms and instead will use the term 'alcopops'. We should use the term 'coolers', which is what Revenue & Customs use.
"RTDs certainly bring in good cash margin compared to other packaged products and draught. You have got to give customers both a variety and repertoire of drinks, especially now when you will have more families going into pubs."