William Grant’s top UK spirits trends

11th July, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

The UK spirits market grew 4.5% to £9.1bn in the last year, driven by sales in the on-trade, although British consumers are still displaying recessionary habits.


Spirits continues to be the second-largest drinks category in the UK, but consumers are seeking more memorable experiences for their money

According to William Grant & Sons’ UK Market Report 2014, sales of spirits in the on-trade grew 5.1% in the year to April 2014.

Spirits is the second-largest drinks category in the on-trade, accounting for 18% of sales, although new openings are seeing “a larger proportion of sales driven by spirits, especially premium spirits”.

However, consumers are continuing to visit bars and restaurants less often, a habit borne from the recent recession. The report, compiled in collaboration with CGA Strategy and Nielsen, claims consumers are seeking memorable experiences and value for money when they do go out.

Rachel Perryman, client services director at CGA Strategy, said: “Like the improving economy, we are starting to see green shoots in the modern on-trade. This is the emergence of a new style of on-trade: dynamic, customer centric with excellence in execution in multiple areas of operations.”

The largest region for spirits sales in the on-trade is northern England, which accounts for 25% of serves. London is the second-largest market, with 22.3% of sales, while the midlands and central UK is third with 19%.

Scotland meanwhile is the number one market for malt whisky (25.1%), spiced rum (43.2%) and blended whisky (24.1%). Southern England consumes the most gin (7.6%).

The report identified the top five best-selling spirits brands in the on-trade by volume as Smirnoff Red Label vodka, Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Jågermeister liqueur, Gordon’s Gin and Bacardi rum.

Spirits in the UK off-trade

Sales in the off-trade meanwhile also grew by 3.6%, with premium expressions – priced over £23 for a 700ml bottle – up 6.4%.

Spirits is also the second-largest drinks category in the off-trade, behind light wine, but growing faster in value than both beer and wine at a rate of 3.6%.

While the increased in value is a result of increased pricing, both penetration and frequency of purchase declined in the period.

Just as in the on-trade, the report highlights that consumers are continuing to seek value for money when making purchases.

“We know that those who purchase spirits are the highest spending category shoppers of all,” said Katie Hemmings, commercial director at consumer research agency him!.

“It is therefore critical for retailers to satisfy them with a relevant range, along with product advice and great customer service.”

According to the report, alcohol is the most gifted category in the UK, bigger than chocolate and beauty. Almost a third of spirits sold in the UK during the year were purchased with the intention of giving the product as a gift, with 40% of those sales being Scotch whisky.

William Grant identified the five top-selling spirits brands in the off-trade by volume, are Smirnoff Red Label vodka, Glen’s vodka, The Famous Grouse blended Scotch whisky, Bell’s Original blended Scotch whisky and Gordon’s gin.

Click through the following pages for a more in-depth report on each spirit category’s performance in the UK.

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