Bob Arnold said consumers are prioritizing unique flavors like sweet heat and global food influences as they increasingly make drinks at home.

Spicing up cocktails: Q Mixers CEO talks innovation

Courtesy of Q Mixers

As a staple of home mini-bars, Q Mixers has been comfortable as home base to the creativity of its consumers who follow taste trends. Bob Arnold, the company’s CEO, said its latest non-carbonated mixer is designed to mirror two major trends: global flavor influences and authentic ingredients.

In the past two decades since its launch in 2006, drinkers have increasingly sought more variety from alcoholic beverages, either through added flavors or unique spirits combinations. By extension, companies within the alcohol category are altering household name cocktails to keep consumers on their toes, particularly fickle millennial and Gen Z consumers. 

“The part that we find more exciting right now is the versatility,” Arnold said. “We typically innovate with one base liquid at first, and then we start to go through a myriad of filters, asking ‘What can we end up doing with this?’”

The latest Q Mixers launch, Spicy Mango Margarita mix, capitalizes on a viral trend among Gen Z known as “swicy” — drinks with a sweet taste and an added spicy kick. The beverage is sweetened by agave and contains mango, key limes and jalapeños. It was designed to pair with frozen margaritas, according to the brand.

Q Mixers developed the product by analyzing NIQ (Nielsen) consumer data, which signaled a shift in what younger drinkers are prioritizing. The company observed that margaritas were the most ordered cocktail in the U.S.

“What [NIQ] called out through a lot of testing was that in the non-carbonated mixer space, there’s always people looking to be healthier, and part of that is about real ingredients,” Arnold said. “The use of real sugar and real agave was actually scoring higher than even the desire for zero calories.”

The “swicy” trend also can be seen in other leading beverage brands like Starbucks, which rolled out “Spicy Lemonade Refresher” drinks at its stores last month.

Consumers told the company they wanted a strong mango-forward flavor, but also with noticeable spice, Arnold said. Q Mixers looked at the growing influence of Hispanic, Indian and Asian drinkers to gauge what types of beverages are growing in popularity, the executive said.

“We work with one of the most preeminent flavor houses in the world to help us really think about what’s going to be on trend, not just what’s on trend,” Arnold said.

The Spicy Mango Margarita offering joins its regular Margarita and Spicy Grapefruit Margarita mixer products, along with its Bloody Mary mix, in its non-carbonated drink lineup designed to be added to booze.

Q Mixers has an “active innovation table” developing new mixers, Arnold noted, but it is being strategic about how it goes about launching new items. The company is looking to innovate club soda to make it more exciting, and expanding on the flavor profile of mule mixers.

“I could probably bring five things to market this year, pretty easily if I wanted to, but you’ve got to make choices not only for what’s on trend but what consumers really want and scale,” Arnold said.

 

Spicing up cocktails: Q Mixers CEO talks innovation

Q Mixers first debuted non-carbonated mixes in 2022. Courtesy of Q Mixers  

Getting hold of Gen Z

Young drinkers may be putting more stock in which mixers they purchase amid inflationary uncertainty.

Brenda Fiala, the global vice president of strategy at Bacardi, told Food Dive earlier this year that cash-strapped young people who might have gone to a bar to drink are increasingly opting for the less expensive option of making drinks at home with spirits and mixers. Forty-four percent of consumers told spirits company in its 2024 cocktail survey that they intend to drink cocktails with more natural ingredients.

Q Mixers’ new margarita mix comes as leading brands in the alcohol space take advantage of a growing interest in tequila with new launches — including White Claw, Boston Beer’s Truly, Casa Azul tequila soda and Kendall Jenner’s 818 Spirits. 

At the same time, many Gen Z consumers are drinking less than their older counterparts, changing the traditional thinking of what drinks young people are willing to purchase.

While nonalcoholic cocktail makers like Mingle Mocktails aim to serve the growing demand for boozeless beverages, Q Mixers takes a different approach. While it sees itself as a good nonalcoholic option for consumers who want to drink Q Mixers on their own, the business still sees itself mostly existing within the alcohol space.

Its core demographic is heavily millennial and Gen X because that’s who wants to drink a proper cocktail, according to Arnold. But the company will position itself to align with consumer preferences as they change.

Q Mixers works with mixologists to develop nonalcoholic ways to prepare its drinks, he said, including the addition of Spicy Mango Margarita mix to club soda.

“We see Q as the canvas, and you’re the artist, you figure out how you want to paint us,” Arnold said.

  • Booze or bust: How 2024 will reshape alcohol By Chris Casey • Jan. 25, 2024
  • Drinkers seek natural, escapist cocktails in 2024: Bacardi survey By Chris Casey • Jan. 10, 2024

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