Jack Daniels FB post

American whiskey Jack Daniel’s has usurped Famous Grouse, the leading Scotch, as the off-trade’s number one whisky brand, reveals our 2016 Britain’s Biggest Alcohol Brands report, published in association with Nielsen this week.

With sales up 9.3% to £221.6m, Jack Daniel’s is now Britain’s ninth-biggest booze brand overall, up from 11th a year ago. Grouse, meanwhile, has fallen three places in our ranking to number 13, after haemorrhaging £32m, or 14.9%, of its value. The six blended Scotches in this year’s top 100 have lost £26.7m (4.4%) combined.

“We’ve seen Scotch whisky lose facings in the retailers as they recognised they were under-spaced and under-trading in American whiskey,” said Crispin Stephens, head of commercial planning & activation for Jack Daniel’s brand owner Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands.

“As a result they are giving more space to American whiskey. Jack is at a premium to its competitor set: you can buy a 70cl bottle for the same price as a litre bottle of another spirit. People want to trade up, so the retailers are giving more space to the brands they’re going to get the most return from.”

The switch to pricier brands drove the combined value of the top 100 brands up by £149m, with most of that the result of an average price increase of 1.4%. There was certainly no sign of a let-up in promotional intensity in booze aisles: 68 of the top 100 brands saw prices fall.

The price of Jack Daniel’s has itself declined by 6% in the past year. Stephens says price drops and featured space deals at key periods such as Christmas and Father’s Day, increasingly on one-litre bottles, have been crucial to growth, but points to other macro factors playing to the brand’s strengths.

“People don’t want to drink what their fathers drank,” said Stephens. “There is a broader interest in Americana. Positive cultural associations with America are coming through in casual dining trends. Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace and Bulleit and other American whiskeys are benefiting from this.”

The combined value of these ‘craft’ bourbons - included in the first-ever top ranking of craft spirits and craft beers - has doubled to £6.4m. “We’ve been growing Bulleit Bourbon in the on-trade for a number of years and are now looking to build it in the off trade,” said Diageo off-trade sales director Guy Dodwell.

Heineken MD David Forde said the decline of Scotch and growth of American whiskey was a sign of the times, following the Brexit vote, reflecting a polarisation even when it comes to whisky. “There’s a lot of emotion in the market and emotion invariably translates back into brand choice. To what extent are people going to embrace British brands versus international brands? Is there a split taking place along the Brexit/remain divide?”