Tracking the growth trend in spirits and the rise of cocktail culture, mixers used in the preparation of cocktails and mixed drinks in restaurants and bars are on a solid growth trajectory, according to The On-Premise Bar Mixer Marketplace report just released from Technomic.

The mixer category is defined as non-alcoholic beverage ingredients used in spirits-based mixed drinks and cocktails and includes prepared mixes, juices, carbonated soft drinks, syrups/flavorings, purees, tonic waters and energy drinks. Mixers reached 130 million finished gallons in 2012, a 2.5-percent increase compared with 2011, and the category is expected to continue on a steady growth trend in 2013 and 2014, according to the study.

"Several factors are supporting the growth of mixers in the on-premise channel," said Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic. "The continued growth of spirits and cocktails in bars and restaurants, combined with flavor and product innovation on the part of mixer suppliers is creating momentum in the category. And consumers are increasingly interested in the mixers used in their drinks."

One-third of consumers say they pay more attention to mixers when ordering drinks at bars and restaurants now than they did two years ago, according to the study. Young adult consumers are the group most in tune; 45 percent of Millennials report paying more attention to the mixers used in drinks today. In addition, the majority of bartenders surveyed (85 percent) report their guests are more interested in the mixer component of their drinks.

Flavor is the mixer attribute of most interest to consumers, and is an important area of product innovation among leading mixer suppliers. Strawberry, lime, exotic fruits, sweet-spicy and other blends are trending flavors, according to the study. Brand is also important to consumers, particularly for drinks involving spirits and carbonated soft drinks, such as rum and cola. Three-quarters of consumers specify the preferred brand of carbonated soft drink when ordering these mixed drinks.

"Following a 5.6-percent increase in sales in the on-premise channel in 2012, spirits are projected to continue growing in dollars and volume in restaurants, bars, lounges, nightclubs and other on-premise locations," Crecca said. "The cocktail culture is now well-established, and Millennials are very much engaged in it, driving trends in new drinks and flavors. As a result, the vibrant and diverse mixer market is expected to enjoy ongoing expansion.

Read more about trends.

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