They might not be sold hot, but ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee and tea are sizzling when it comes to U.S. sales. Dollar sales for the convenience-minded category jumped 5.1% during the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, 2018, to reach $6.3 billion, according to data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI. Unit sales rose 2.4% during that same timeframe.


Refrigerated RTD coffee exploding

The refrigerated RTD coffee subcategory posted the most impressive gains within the category. Dollar sales spiked 20.1% to reach $341.7 million, IRI data show, while unit sales climbed 18.1%.

Starbucks (the North American Coffee Partnership, a joint venture between Starbucks Corp. and PepsiCo Inc.) led the top 10 brands in sales, with $67.7 million. The brand’s dollar sales rose 40.7%, while its unit sales increased 39.8%.

But some other top 10 brands made more substantial gains. Peet’s (Peet’s Coffee) saw dollar sales skyrocket by 459.7% (albeit on a small base) and unit sales jump 434.3%. And dollar and unit sales for the STōK brand (Danone North America) rose 80.2% and 81.4%, respectively.

Some other top 10 brands didn’t fare nearly as well. Caribou Coffee saw dollar and unit sales plunge by 13.6% and 7.7%, respectively. And Califia Farms realized a 10.1% decline in dollar sales and an 8.5% decrease in unit sales.

On the larger shelf-stable side of RTD coffee (cappuccino/iced coffee), dollar sales rose 10.6% to reach $2.6 billion. Unit sales improved by 10.2%.

Starbucks Frappuccino was the subcategory leader, posting sales of $1.1 billion. But the brand actually realized dollar and unit sales declines of 1.3% and 1.9%, respectively.

Making the most significant gains was the Starbucks Cold Brew brand. Its dollar sales shot up 237.5%, and its unit sales climbed 232.4%. Private label also posted strong gains: a 65.0% increase in dollar sales and a 53.8% jump in unit sales.


Mixed results for RTD tea

Within the RTD tea subcategories, there was good news and bad news. The good news? Dollar sales of refrigerated RTD tea climbed 9.7% to reach $1.5 billion. Unit sales improved 5.3%.

The bad news? The shelf-stable (canned and bottled) RTD tea subcategory didn’t fare nearly as well. It did eke out a 1.4% dollar sales gain to reach $3.6 billion. But the subcategory saw unit sales fall 0.8%.

Private label led the top 10 refrigerated RTD tea brands. But it posted dollar and unit sales declines of 2.8% and 5.2%.

Demonstrating the strongest growth here among the top 10 brands were Lipton Pure Leaf (Unilever) and Milo’s (Milo’s Tea Company). Dollar and unit sales for the Lipton Pure Leaf brand rose 23.0% and 22.4%, respectively, while those for Milo’s grew 19.5% and 21.3%.

On the flip side, Gold Peak (Coca-Cola Co.) saw the biggest declines, with dollar and unit sales falling by 6.5% and 9.0%, respectively.

On the shelf-stable RTD tea side, meanwhile, Lipton Pure Leaf was the leader, posting sales of $717.2 million. Dollar and unit sales rose by 6.6% and 3.2% respectively. But Peace Tea (Peace Tea Beverage Co.) made the biggest gains, with dollar sales up 36.4% and unit sales up 37.5%.