From watermelon and basil vodka to ready-to-drink (RTD) mango margaritas, new product launches in the first quarter of the year put flavor at the forefront across all categories. Artisanal, nature-inspired flavors are particularly in vogue, with most products launching citrus- or herb-inflected flavors to their lineups.

As the weather warms across the country and consumers gather outdoors, seasonal beverages such as flavored vodka, hard seltzer and rosé are showing growth, with new entrants to the category and the latest vintages of well-known brands launching. BevAlc Insights examined Drizly sales data to highlight the top product launches in Q1 of 2021 and what they indicate about current consumer trends.

Flavorful Spirits Ahead of Warm Weather Sipping

A swath of new flavored vodkas entered into the market in Q1, including CIROC Limited Edition Summer Citrus, Grey Goose Essences (including top-selling flavors like Watermelon & Basil, Strawberry & Lemongrass, and White Peach & Rosemary), and Deep Eddy Lime. 

All of these are launching ahead of the peak season for flavored vodka, which has seen seasonal share gains year-over-year over the past 12 months, spiking in the summer months. “We expect with recent flavor innovation leaning toward botanical and fruit flavors that make for easy summer sipping and cocktail making, flavored vodka will be a driver of overall vodka sales in the coming months,” says Paquette.

Gin traditionally sees category share gains during spring and summer, but year-to-date gin has also been among liquor’s fastest-growing subcategories. New products that riff on standard formula offer unique flavor profiles, such as Hendrick’s Lunar Gin, which entered the U.S. market in late January.

The introduction of Bailey’s Deliciously Light, a lower-calorie version of the classic cream liqueur launched ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, underscores consumers’ desire to celebrate in a health-conscious manner. 

New Ready-to-Drink Flavor Riffs

The launch of Cutwater’s Mango Margarita is a riff on the brand’s popular Tequila Lime Margarita, indicating that we may begin to see more flavored versions of this classic RTD best-seller in single-serve format.

Hard Seltzer Expands Its Reach

With the launch of Truly Hard Seltzer Iced Tea and Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, this now-staple category is branching out. “Hard seltzer has begun to blur lines with other hard alternatives with lemonade and iced tea flavored hard seltzers gaining share,” says Paquette.

And the recent launch of CACTI Spiked Seltzer indicates that everyone — including celebrities — wants a piece of the hard seltzer pie, which now accounts for 20 percent share of beer sales on Drizly YTD. Within its first few days on Drizly, this new agave-based hard seltzer brand backed by rapper Travis Scott became the fourth-best selling hard seltzer brand, behind White Claw, Truly, and Bud Light.

The IPA Empire Expands 

Innovation within IPA subcategories has fueled growth within the overall IPA category, and the launch of Sierra Nevada’s Big Little Thing Imperial IPA points to continued growth for the Imperial IPA subcategory specifically; it has been one of the fastest-growing beer subcategories year-over-year.

Ready, Set, Rosé

In tandem with the first spring blooms, rosé wines from the 2020 vintage have arrived, and consumers are reaching for the first releases of the season. These are likely to be popular through Q2; in 2020, rosé rose from 7 percent share overall to 11 percent of share of wine sales during the summer months. Among the most popular new rosé releases are from established brands, such as Château d’Esclans Whispering Angel and Wolffer Estate Summer in a Bottle. Meanwhile, new value SKUs are entering Drizy’s top ten rosé SKUs, including Vrac Rosé.