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On-trade whisky sales boom in Scotland

While the UK’s total on-premise whisky sales for 2023 were 2% below those of the previous year, it was a different story north of Hadrian’s Wall.

According to CGA by NIQ, 2023’s on-trade whisky sales clocked in just shy of £1 billion, at £959 million. In general in the UK, on-trade spirits sales have been going through a slump recently – as CGA by NIQ’s Christmas results revealed.

The exception is Scotland, where the value of whisky sales grew by 18.2% year-on-year, meaning that Scotland now accounts for 15.4% of all whisky sales by value (its population accounts for about 12% of the UK total).

Malt whisky in particular has proven to be something of a success-story in Scotland, with the value rate of sale increasing by an astounding 35.9% from 2022 to 2023.

CGA by NIQ’s senior client manager Matt Meeks argued that while it is only one night a year, the whisky-soaked celebration of Scotland’s most famous poet does play a role in getting consumers to engage with the category: “Burns Night is a great way to cement its appeal and attract new drinkers who will return to it on future occasions.”

Almost a third (31.8%) of on-trade whisky sales are malts now, a year-on-year rise of 3.3% – the share for blended whisk(e)y has gone down by 2.7% and US whiskey, despite the end of tariffs supposedly making it a more affordable option for UK consumers, lost a percentage point of its share too.

Of those who do favour blended whisk(e)y, only 17% order it neat, whereas for malt whisky that proportion is more than twice as much, at 42%.

Whether they’re drinking it neat or in a cocktail, whisk(e)y drinkers are a valuable, more affluent asset for a struggling on-trade – according to CGA by NIQ’s findings, they will spend £126 per month on average eating and drinking out, whereas the average non-whisk(e)y drinking Brit might only spend £99.

One might consider the rise of whisky sales in Scotland to be something of a homegrown success, Scottish people choosing to drink Scotch whisky. In Southern England it has been a similar story with the on-trade growth of English sparkling wine.

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