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NORWALK, Conn. -- The spirit industry has upped the ante with Diageo's introduction of 12-ounce canned ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails that contain the same alcohol content as most beers, Advertising Age reported.
Florida retailers told the magazine that sales for the vodka-, rum- and whisky-based cocktails have been favorable. The flavors being tested -- Captain Morgan and Cola; Smirnoff Vodka and Lemon-Lime Soda; George Dickel Whisky and Cola; and Seagram's 7 American Whiskey and Lemon-Lime Soda -- have had strong returns so far.
"They're selling very well and we're pleased," Bob Gibson, marketing director for the 150-store ABC Fine Wines, told Advertising Age. He added that Diageo plans to expand the test area and include an additional flavor featuring Crown Royal whiskey.
A Diageo spokesman told the magazine: "We see [RTD cocktails] as an untapped category. We're anxious to see how consumers react to them."
The drinks are 5 percent alcohol by volume and are packaged in 12-ounce cans, allowing their sale next to beer in convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets. "It extends the occasions [spirits] can penetrate, and in that way, it's a threat to beer," Brian Sudano, managing director at Beverage Marketing Corp., told Advertising Age. "It opens up picnics and beaches and even some concessions."
While scarce in the U.S., the RTD cocktails have been accepted in numerous overseas markets. In Australia, Beam Global Wine & Spirits sells 7 million cases of its Jim Bean Bourbon Whisky and Cola annually, a "significant percentage" of the Jim Beam brand's sales for the country, a spokeswoman told the magazine.
The Diageo test is expected to run until next spring and could open up cooler space for other RTD cocktails in the U.S. Though, the drinks will likely receive criticism from advocacy groups claiming they will attract underage drinkers, the report said.
In other Diageo news, the company received 66 medals and three trophies at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. Over the course of four months, the competition employed food and beverage experts to sample products across different drink categories in blind tastings.
The company's beverage offerings received 13 Gold/Best in Class Medals, one Gold Medal, eight Silver/Best in Class medals, 34 Silver Medals and 10 bronze medals. Diageo's scotch whiskies brought in the three trophies -- in categories Blended Scotch Whisky, Single Malt Scotch Whiskey (15 years and under) and Single Malt Scotch Whisky (over 15 years).
"We are honored to receive this number of medals. It is evidence of the great emphasis we place on quality from the huge brands like Johnnie Walker, to the rare malts and our impressive North American whiskies," said Diageo US Spirits president Larry Schwartz. The company's North American whiskies -- Crown Royal XR, Bulleit Bourbon and George Dickel – also placed at the top of their respective tasting categories.