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On-trade whisky sales fall 2%

Whisky sales in Great Britain’s on-trade declined by 2% last year but rose by double digits in Scotland.

world whisky in a glass
Single malt sales soared by more than a third in Scotland’s on-trade last year

Data from CGA’s market measurement tool showed that on-trade whisky sales reached a total of £959 million (US$1.2 billion) in 2023.

While total sales declined, Scotland bucked the trend with whisky growing by 18.2% in the country’s bars and restaurants. Scotland now accounts for 15.4% of all whisky sales by value, CGA noted.

Single malts were the leading subcategory, with sales up by 35.9% in Scotland last year. The segment now has a 31.8% share of all whisky sales, a rise of 3.3%.

Blended whisky’s share of the category fell by 2.7%, while American whiskey saw its share dip by 1%.

CGA’s BrandTrack service revealed that 17% of blended whisky consumers prefer to drink it neat. This figure is twice as high for single malt whisky drinkers (42%).

CGA also attributed the whisky category’s sales increase in recent years to cocktails made with the spirit. CGA’s Mixed Drinks Report found that 7% of consumers now typically drink Old Fashioneds and Whisky Sours in the on-trade, while 5% prefer a Manhattan.

Furthermore, whisky drinkers tend to be wealthier, spending £126 (US$160) per month on eating and drinking out – £27 (US$34) more than the average consumer.

Matt Meek, CGA by NIQ’s senior client manager, said: “While it has been a challenging couple of years in the spirits market, whisky – and malts in particular – have often provided solid growth.

“Burns Night [25 January] is a great way to cement its appeal and attract new drinkers who will return to it on future occasions. But whisky is a complex and evolving category where a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Deep market knowledge is needed to craft the differentiated strategies that are needed to gain sales and share.”

Total spirits sales also declined in Great Britain’s on-trade last year, falling by 4.6%, CGA revealed. Scotch and imported whiskies both increased their share of spirits sales last year by 0.3%.

Cream liqueurs were the only subcategory to grow in 2023, soaring by nearly a third (29.8%).

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