In a year of aggressive pricing and record temperatures, Grolsch roared into the top five beers, Hardys wrested the wine crown from Jacob’s Creek, and Diageo’s efforts delivered for Smirnoff Red and Baileys

Record-breaking temperatures over the summer gave the drinks market a well-needed lift as suppliers and retailers worked hard to match the uplift generated by the football World Cup championships in 2002.
ACNielsen’s liquor marketing manager, David Glennon, says: “2003 will be remembered for its long hot summer. The effect of the temperatures on the drinks market was substantial.”
Although both on and off-trades saw improvements as a result of the good weather, take-home had the biggest uplifts, with total liquor up 4% year-on-year, mainly driven by another strong performance in the multiple grocers, where sales were up 7% [ACNielsen retail audit total off-licences].
Beer had a good year, albeit predictable in terms of brand performance, with the top four positions the same as last year.
The only shake-up was Kronenbourg’s exit from the the top five beers, making way for Grolsch’s entrance, thanks to it shooting up 51% in value. Coors is now well set to leverage the gain throughout the coming months.
Glennon adds: “The beer market’s top five looks very static compared to previous years with only Grolsch breaking into the list.
“The emphasis in the beer market has been on brand building. But as the big get bigger, innovation in the market place has been at a bare minimum.”
The beer market continues to grow, up 4% (MAT), with strong performances from the top five. “Without a major sporting event, growth has been achieved as a result of further strong pricing and the good weather,” adds Glennon.
Light wine also put in a strong showing, with sales up 5%, giving it a 34% share of all liquor sold in the off-trade.
According to Glennon, growth continues to be driven by the New World. However, Stowells has had a slightly turbulent year, dipping by 3.8% in the last 12 months.
Brand owner Constellation Wines will be disappointed to see the wine drop two places to fifth position although an autumn sampling drive, carried out after ACNielsen data was collated, could help it regain some lost ground. However, the wine giant has some consolation in the form of Hardys, which has snatched the top spot from Jacob’s Creek.
Meanwhile, E& J Gallo has been forced to settle for third place this year. Spirits are also showing positive growth - up 3% - fuelled largely by Diageo’s efforts.
A 10% sales spurt for Smirnoff Red has seen it take the top spot from stablemate Bell’s 8-year-old.
Baileys is responsible for a revolution further down the rankings. Its 31% increase in sales sees it enter the top five in fourth position, so with Gordon’s at five, Diageo has significantly strengthened its grip on the market.
The shift in places has had a knock-on effect for rival Bacardi-Martini, whose Bacardi Carta Blanca has dropped out of the top five brands.
But RTD Bacardi Breezer remains the bestselling brand in its sector,despite increasingly stiff competition. “Nevertheless, after previous years of excellent growth, the RTD market is flat,” says Glennon. “This is as a result of the price implications of the increase in duty and a maturing of the market,” he adds.
Only two of the top five brands, Smirnoff Ice and WKD, enjoyed a year of growth. And Diageo has acknowledged it still has work to do on Archers Aqua, which has fallen a long way since showing growth of 251% in 2002.
In terms of brand ranking, WKD has had the most successful year thanks to sales surging by 38%.
But while suppliers continue to try to silence critcs of the RTD category’s performance, it is a telling sign that even at the top selling end of the market, brands are only growing at a fraction of the rates seen in the past few years.
Overall, take-home drinks sales remain buoyant mainly driven by retailers’ aggressive pricing, a factor that will inevitably cause the off-trade to steal a greater share of sales from the on-trade.