Shoppers who saw in the New Year with a bottle of Champagne may well have paid less than they did a year ago.
Although average prices have risen across the alcoholic drinks market in the past year, some were similar over the four-week festive period - or even lower - than over the 2011 festive break.
The typical price of a bottle of Champagne has fallen about 5% year-on-year, from an average of £35.57 12 months ago to £33.88 this year [BrandView.co.uk 4w/e 1 January 2013]. Good news for fizz fans, although this is still slightly up on the £33.74 drinkers were paying at the height of the Jubilee celebrations during summer 2012.
Suppliers and retailers have increased the number of promotions on Champagne, possibly in a bid to prevent fizz fans from downtrading to other sparkling wines - although these too fell in price over the festive period, from an average of £7.28 a bottle in 2011 to £7.20 this year.
The unit price of still wine has also fallen by 8p year-on-year to £7.80, as retailers increased the number of promotions in that category from 1,123 to 1,226.
wholesale prices: fruit & vegetables
The bad weather was a running thread throughout the 2012 production season, and the impact of last year’s heavy rain and floods continues to be reflected in produce prices.
Potatoes have had a particularly rough time of it, and the wet weather has caused problems not just in the UK but in all major potato-growing regions in Europe, leading to greatly reduced yields and increased wastage. As a result, wholesale potato prices have more than doubled over the past 12 months, rising by 111.9% to £242.3/tonne.
It’s a similar picture for many key root veg. Carrot prices are up 43% year-on-year and 20.5% month-on-month as a result of reduced yields and quality problems, as well as delayed harvests across Northern Europe. There has also been a surge in iceberg lettuce prices - which are up 51.1% year-on-year - although they have eased in the past month, thanks to fresh supplies from the Mediterranean.
The sharpest drop was in the RTD category, with the average unit price crashing 14% year-on-year to £3.29. This was driven in part by an increase in the number of promotions - particularly multibuys - although it may also be the result of rising sales of cheaper own-label RTDs.
But the industry’s attempts to keep prices down over Christmas were nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the spirits category. Comparing the whole of 2012 with the whole of 2011, the average volume price has risen 5% year-on-year to £27.43 per litre. But over the four-week festive trading period, the average volume price was up less than 1% year-on-year, to £26.20.
The picture is not quite so pretty for ale and cider drinkers. Despite an increase in the number of festive cider promotions, the average unit price has risen from £3.61 to £3.87. Ale drinkers, meanwhile, paid £3.80 a litre against £3.65 last year - although this may have been skewed by growing interest in higher-priced craft beers.
On the face of it, the lager category kept a tighter lid on prices, with the typical unit price falling from £5.51 last year to £5.42. However, this is likely down to a reduction in the number of cans or bottles in multipacks as the average volume price has risen from £2.95 a litre to £3.05, while the number of promotions has dropped from 600 to 508.