Everyone, it seems, wants to get on the ready-to-drink (RTD) act. The market created by brands such as Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice has grown almost exponentially in just a handful of years, with a huge array of both me-too and innovative products sharing shelf space with the well-known brands on which many of them are based.
While the vast majority of such RTD products are spirit based, taking advantage of the 'mixability' of drinks such as vodka and tequila, there are also a few beer-based products, in particular in Germany, and even a few alcoholic soft drinks thrown in for good measure.
But wine-based RTD products are few and far between - at least until now. From 1 March, consumers in Germany will be able to add a new product to their list of party favourites - Viala Carma, a wine-based RTD product based on the popular Italian wine brand Viala, produced by German company Racke.
The drink was launched last week in Paris at Wine Evolution 2003, an international wine conference for top executives, which provided a forum for industry players to discuss matters such as innovation in the wine industry - an increasingly important concern when faced with a worldwide excess of wine.
This is particularly true in Old World wine producers, where consumption is decreasing and the younger generation often seems to discover wine far too late to have any major effect on increasing consumption. But could the RTD route hold the key to rekindling interest in wine among younger drinkers?
Racke clearly believes so. "Other industries are reacting quickly to the desires of young consumers with mixed beverages, but the wine industry is yet to perceive such products as a chance to open new market segments and new consumer groups," the company said in a statement, adding that the double-digit growth figures for RTD drinks should help prove to even the archly conservative wine trade that such products could have a genuine future.
Racke claims that its wine-based RTD has a major advantage over many other pre-mixed products which often taste more of the mixer than of the alcohol on which they are based. Because the wine on which Viala Carma is based is itself rich and fruity, it is complemented, rather than overpowered, by the fruit flavours of the mixers - in this case Lemon Lime and Lemon Ginger.
"Viala Carma combines the uncomplicated wine enjoyment of Viala wines with the trendy freshness of popular fruits and tingling carbonation. When researched, its unusual and cheeky design was found very appealing and created strong buying incentives with its target group - the genuine, young trendsetters," the company said.
Viala Carma will be available from 1 March through the Lekkerland Tobaccoland wholesale grouping in Germany, where Racke's Viala wine is already one of the most popular brands with young drinkers after a concerted marketing effort by the company over the past few years. It will also be available at German petrol stations, kiosks and convenience stores.
The company said it was not yet sure whether the drink would take off in other countries, but there is certainly plenty of potential, given both the increasing international demand for RTD products and Racke's own expansion to key RTD markets such as the UK. The initial buzz about the product in Germany has been encouraging, Racke said, and it is clearly confident that the product itself has a future in international markets.