January no- and low-sales soar, as 72% of adults vow to cut booze intake permanently

No- and low-beer sales soared 37% during Dry January, the latest data from Kantar showed, as a new research published by Drinkaware said three quarters of adults who took part in the health kick said they intended to cut their booze intake permanently.

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The organisation that works to reduce alcohol misuse published a study finding that almost three quarters (72%) of people who had cut their booze intake or stopped drinking last month plan to continue in the long-term, with 12% of that number saying they planning to stop drinking completely in the long-term.

In the research, around a third (33%) said they intended to avoid alcohol on a ‘work’ night, over a quarter (26%) intended to set themselves a drinking limit and one in five (20%) intended to avoid always having alcohol in the house.

According to a You.Gov poll conducted by Alcohol Change UK last December, one in ten drinkers was planning to take part in Dry January 2020.  However, although retail sales of booze in the 4 weeks may have been dented, according to Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, sales of booze during January dipped 20% compared to the ‘normal’ months of February to November, he also noted that 15 million households still bought booze during January. 

“In January versus December the January sales are half those of December, but only 20% down on a normal, non- Christmas month,” he told the drinks business. “So while that is sizeable, it’s not as if nobody is buying alcohol – over half of households bought it. Despite the the noise around Dry January, alcohol sales are still considerable.

He also noted that while the growth of no and low larger had grown, this was still off a small base – no and low accounts for around 4% of total lager sales, and competes not only with ‘regular’ strength lager and beer, but with soft drinks, sparkling juices and cordials. 

He pointed out that year-on-year sales in the four weeks to 27 January 2020 vs 2019 had seen alcohol sales actually rise 5% – but this was due to there being a key extra shopping day (30th December) in the data period. The strongest increases were larger, sparkling wine and rum, he noted.

Aldi, whose alcohol share is greater than its overall retail share, grew its sales of spirits by 12% in the 12 weeks to 27 January and Asda saw strong double-digit growth of its premium “Extra Special’ own label booze, having introduced new lines in the run up to Christmas.

Retail sales

Overall, the retail market grew just 0.3% in the last quarter, the Kantar analysis showed.

Ocado was Britain’s fastest growing grocer, up sales 11.2% compared to the same period last year, boosted by strong growth in the North of England, where sales grew 17%, and Lidl also achieved double-digit growth, up by 11.1% year on year. The Coop also saw growth, with sales up 2.7% boosting its market share by 0.1 percentage point.

The picture was less rosy across the big four supermarkets. Sainsbury’s performed the best, with sales down only 0.6% – an improvement on its recent performance – and online sales rose 7% year-on-year. An increase in promotional activity at Morrisons compared to last year didn’t help it in terms of market share, which slid 0.3 percentage points to 10.3% in the last 12 weeks.

Asda also saw market share slip as its sales fell 2.2% while Tesco saw sales slide 0.9%, causing its market share to drop 0.4 percentage points to 27.3%. Waitrose’s sales were also lower than that same period last year, down 1.5%, with the result that its market share slipped slightly, from 5.1% to 5.0%.

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