It has entered a period of strong product and market activity, however. This is particularly the case in the traditionally relatively undeveloped European market. Here growth has been led by chilled milk-based variants in lidded cups, rather than the more usual ambient products in cans and bottles in the more established markets of Asia and the USA.
Lu Ann Williams, director of Innovation for Innova Market Insights, believes that RTD coffee is set for further growth, particularly for premium-style chilled in-cup lines.
"The market has particular appeal as an on-the-go option for younger consumers, offering a sweet, indulgence-style beverage or snack," she said.
"The rise of RTD milky coffee drinks has offered opportunities both for coffeehouse brands to expand into supermarkets and for flavoured milk suppliers to broaden their customer base."
Germany probably has the largest iced coffee market in Europe, and has also seen strong growth in the market for chilled products.
Emmi has been a pioneer in this area with its Caffe Latte range, with Germany one of its key markets, although the range is also available in other European countries and in the USA.
The range, in characteristic cardboard cups with snap-on-lids, now encompasses a range of flavour variants and was relaunched across Europe in early 2013, at which time the 2012 limited edition Tahitian Vanilla also became permanent under the Vanilla name and a new limited edition New York Caramel replacement was introduced.
In Germany, Caffe Latte faces a range of competition from other chilled lidded cup lines from dairy companies, including the premium Mövenpick line made under licence by J Bauer. This was extended in 2012 with a Caffe Colombia variant sweetened with stevia, and the Landliebe range from FrieslandCampina, launched in the first half of 2012.
These brands have to compete with Starbuck's Frappuccino range, available in a number of European countries under licence from Arla Foods since 2010, as well as the Illy Issimo joint venture set up by Coca-Cola and Illycafe in 2007 to develop premium RTD coffee products. The Starbucks Discoveries range in lidded cups has been joined by fairtrade ready-to-drink coffee specialities (Coffee, Mocha Chocolate and Vanilla) in 250ml bottles, marketed as perfect for consumption on the go.
The UK has seen a number of new entrants into the market over the past year or so. Perhaps most notable was the multinational Mars in mid-2012, when it launched two Galaxy branded ambient coffee drinks in lidded cups. Smaller specialist brands have also been able to create space for themselves.
Jimmy's Iced Coffee, launched in 2011 claiming to be the only chilled RTD coffee drink made with British milk, now has a range of standard and more exotic lines. The limited edition Gingerbread flavour introduced in autumn 2012 was followed in April 2013 with a decaffeinated variant in a 330ml screw-top carton.