The drinks industry has seen a rise in both value and volume over the eight-week Christmas period to 30 December 2006 despite evidence of deep discounting.

Statistics from ACNielsen, seen by The Grocer, showed total beers, wines and spirit sales in the UK off-trade over the period were up 1.9% by volume and 1.2% by value to £17bn. This is compared with a rise in the liquor market for the combined on and off-trade markets of 1.9% by volume and 2.5% by value over the same period.

"This is positive news for the category. The really big winners this year were Champagnes and sparkling wines, which rose 8.4% and 3.8% by value respectively," said a spokeswoman from ACNielsen.Tim How, chief executive at Majestic, which posted strong Christmas trading results, said: "Our overall sales in the period were up 8% and Champagne was twice that growth rate. I think that's down to consumers buying better rather than more Champagne when it was on offer," he said. Another winner was cider, up 23.5% by value, but beer increased just 0.6%.

"Beer and cider sales for us loosely mirrored the sector with value up 49% for our cider brands and up 2% for our beer brands compared with last Christmas," said Craig Clarkson, head of customer marketing off-trade for Scottish & Newcastle, owner of Foster's lager and Strongbow cider.

But it wasn't all good news. Findings show overall the grocery market rose 6% by volume and value over the period, indicating alcohol sales performed behind the market.There was also a decline in the four weeks before Christmas when beers, wines and spirits dropped 2.1% by value.

"This could indicate shoppers bought their Christmas alcohol earlier to make the most of early promotions," said Dan Jago, head of beers, wines and spirits at Tesco.

The drinks trade had been criticised for deep discounting at Christmas. Mike Benner chief exec for the Campaign for Real Ale called it "reckless, dangerous and irresponsible".