Buckfast is shaking off its controversial reputation to become one of the nation’s bestselling booze brands, our Britain’s Biggest Alcohol Brands report reveals.

Sales of the 15% abv tonic wine have grown by £2m (7.9%) to £26.9m over the past year, on volumes up 7.1%, winning it 91st place in The Grocer rankings [Nielsen 52 w/e 22 April 2017].

It accomplished this growth without a listing in the big four, relying instead on its presence in the Co-op and convenience stores. “With some of the large groups that we have on board they are seeing growth down south, which would indicate that they’re picking up new business,” said Buckfast sales manager Stewart Wilson.

It was boosted by an ongoing effort to reposition the brand as an accompaniment to food, having enlisted chef Martin Blunos to showcase “how versatile it can be” and worked with mixologists on cocktails, Wilson added.

Buckfast has long been criticised for its links to drunken and violent behaviour. A 2009 report for the Scottish Prison Service found 43.4% of young male prisoners had consumed Buckfast prior to offending, and a recent Telegraph article linked it to 6,500 reports of antisocial behaviour and violence in the past two years.

But Wilson said the brand had been used as “a political football” in Scotland. “We are no different from any other alcoholic beverage that is out there. Politicians have used Buckfast to get their names in lights.”

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