Alcohol remains the UK’s top consumer category, worth £16 billion

Alcohol has retained its position as the top selling consumer goods category in the UK, worth £16.1bn in 2017, according to new figures.

Fewer price cuts and a more upmarket drinks aisle has kept alcohol as the UK’s top-grossing drinks category.

Despite alcohol consumption declining steadily worldwide, a reduction in supermarket special offers, fewer price cuts, and the ongoing premiumisation of everyday drinks has helped alcohol to keep its place as the top-grossing consumer goods category, according to the latest report from data firm IRI.

The report, which surveyed market share across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, found that alcohol is growing faster in the UK than anywhere else, although its worth still rose by around £54m across all countries,

Alcohol grew at a rate of 4.4% in the UK, outselling its nearest rival, shelf-safe food, by £660m, with chilled & fresh food in third place worth £13.5bn.

Beer was the leading growth sub-category, with 6.6% growth in the UK alone. Premiumisation of beers, especially craft beers, which have gained shelf space within key retailers, helped drive sales in most countries, according to IRI.

Sparkling wine was the fastest-moving sub-category in the UK with more than 10% growth, while spirits as a whole grew by 5%. Gin also saw a strong upturn, with nearly 25% growth in the UK.

“Reduced levels of trade promotions, coupled with shallower price cuts, have played a part in bolstering topline macro category performances in the UK, Alcohol included,” said Olly Abotorabi, senior regional insights manager at IRI.

“It’s no surprise that we’ve seen strong growth in this category, and particularly in Beer, where brands are moving towards premiumisation, delivering innovation via new flavours, and offering beers and ciders with crafty credentials.

“In Spirits, Gin is also proving popular, driven by a growing number of small and niche batch distillers, celebrity culture and enhanced in-store exposure via displays during key seasonal events. But price increases have hit home with UK consumers who are being much more selective in what they buy and where they shop.”

Last year, a report from market researcher Kantar Worldpanel claimed that premiumisation was a key factor in year-on-year growth in supermarket alcohol sales.

Despite supermarket prices ring by their highest margin in four years last November, sales continue to grow. Drinks sales saw an uptick by 5.3% year-on-year, with British consumers spending an extra £142 million on alcohol in the last financial quarter.

Speaking at the time of Kantar’s report, retail analyst Fraser McKevitt told the drinks business that retailers are “paying close attention to trends in the on-trade.”

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