Vodka has been tipped to steal whisky’s crown as the UK’s bestselling spirit in the off-trade in the next two years.

The whisky market - including imported whiskeys - accounts for 32.4% of the spirits category, with vodka making up 29.7% [Nielsen MAT August 2014]. While value sales of vodka are up 4.2% year on year, according to Nielsen, blended Scotch - which accounts for two thirds of whisky - is down 1.1%.

Industry insiders believe whisky could be overtaken by vodka as its popularity grows among younger consumers showing an appetite for mixed drinks - a trend also benefiting rum. “Vodka is relatively tasteless, meaning it is more palatable for a wider range of consumers, while whisky can be quite a divisive taste,” said Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel. He added vodka also often undercuts whisky on price.

Rivalry between major brands had driven the performance of vodka, suggested Toby Magill, head of BWS at IRI, while the whisky category was being driven down by weak performance at the lower end of the market. Smirnoff and the fast-growing Russian Standard were undertaking heavyweight marketing and promotional activity, he added.

“This competition doesn’t look set to end any time soon and should continue to drive strong performance. If the current growth rates for whisky and vodka continue, it is entirely feasible vodka could take the crown as the number one spirit of choice.”