The battle for the lucrative US ready-to-drink (RTD) market is accelerating with ever more vigour, with the announcement today that Allied Domecq and US brewer Miller Brewing are to launch a range of flavoured malt beverages together.

The first two products to be unveiled by the joint venture will be based on Allied's Stolichnaya vodka and Sauza Tequila brands. The roll out is expected in the spring.

The new brands will be produced and distributed by Miller in the US. And in a statement, Allied Domecq said that the companies will invest up to US$50m in development, launch activity and marketing.

"As the market develops, both parties will explore further opportunities utilising the Allied Domecq portfolio of core spirits brands," the statement said.

Philip Bowman, Allied's chief executive said: "We will be the only player with a strong, premium brand across multiple categories of ready-to-drink malt beverages…By leveraging Miller's production capabilities, its broad distribution system and strong sales and marketing organisation and capitalising on the strong brand equity of our products - beginning with Stolichnaya and Sauza - we are moving into this category in an innovative way."

The move by Allied and Miller comes only a few weeks after Miller announced it is also to launch an RTD with SKYY vodka, called SKYY Blue. Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch and Bacardi are counting down to the launch of their RTD venture Bacardi Silver, which is due for release in February. SKYY Blue is expected to launch in March.

The market leader in the US is Diageo's Smirnoff Ice, which although it contains no vodka has successfully traded on the Smirnoff name, capturing 1% of the US beer market.

Despite the competitive arena Allied and Miller are entering, both were confident of success.

Bowman said: "We intend to be a major player and we are confident our intent to establish leadership in this category will be met with enthusiasm and success. Our beverages will be a hit with adult consumers."

Miller CEO John Bowlin, meanwhile, said: "Allied's premium portfolio of brands represents a strong opportunity to provide our distributors and retailers [with] a tremendous range of new tastes and choices to offer to consumers."