Spirits Top Products

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Britain’s love affair with premixed cocktails has hit new heights. Volume sales have grown by 18.7%. That’s an extra 11.7 million litres landing in shoppers’ baskets.

It’s meant a major payday for market leader WKD Blue, which has increased unit sales by 31.7% and added £11.8m to its value.

What’s more, says Nielsen senior client analyst Polina Jones, 79% of its value gains came during the 17 weeks when bars and pubs were shut in the spring.

Flavoured RTDs like WKD Blue have been a big deal this year, stealing share from classic cocktails like Gordon’s London Dry Gin & Tonic – down 5.8% in volume sales.

During the first lockdown, “RTDs delivered a much-needed slice of fun, and they embodied more than a passing nod to happier times”, says SHS Drinks’ WKD head of brand Alison Gray.

“For many people, RTDs are the closest representations of the types of drinks they might have bought in the on-trade.”

However, while buoyant, the RTD sector hasn’t attracted many new shoppers, adds Jones. “Most of the growth was driven by frequency and price increases.”

So, in a bid to attract new punters to canned spirits, supermarkets are hoping hard seltzer will capture the imagination of health-conscious Brits. Boozy sparkling waters from new players such as Drty, Mike’s and White Claw (see our Top Launch, below) alongside established brands like Coca-Cola, Kopparberg and Dalston’s Soda have been steadily hitting shelves since the summer.

But Jones is yet to be convinced such drinks will become the sensation they are in the US, where off-trade sales hit $2.7bn (£2bn) over the 52 weeks ending 13 June.

In the UK, “the launch of hard seltzers created a lot of noise with a lot of shelf space given to new brands” she says.

“The range, however, is very wide, and it’s unlikely for many brands to cut through to the top 10 next year.”

What’s more likely in 2021 is that flavoured gin will relinquish its hotshot status in the spirits market. There are signs it is already falling out of favour, Jones notes. “Winners in the past – Gordon’s Premium Pink, Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger and Whitley Neill Parma Violet – are seeing declines as the lifecycles of flavour profiles shorten with new flavour innovations.”

And it’s innovation that is “really vital for the UK market” says Pernod Ricard UK commercial director Ian Peart. “If you look back over the past few years, a huge amount of the growth has come from new products. But [coronavirus] gives the challenge of how you launch them to market effectively.”


Top Products 2020

In association with Nielsen

Top 10 Spirits
        £m £ change %
Total volume change: 10.0%   Total Category: 5285.5 566.8 12.0
      Total Own Label: 709.3 64.3 10.0
This year’s rank Last year’s rank Brand Manufacturer £m change (£m) change (%)
1 1 Smirnoff Red Label Diageo 462.3 15.6 3.5
2 2 The Famous Grouse Edrington 245.8 18.4 8.1
3 3 Gordon’s Diageo 234.2 16.5 7.6
4 4 Jack Daniel’s Brown Forman 190.7 18.5 10.8
5 5 Glen’s Loch Lomond 177.5 16.8 10.5
6 7 Russian Standard William Grant & Sons 152.6 11.5 8.1
7 6 Gordon’s Premium Pink Diageo 136.2 –5.6 –3.9
8 10 Captain Morgan Spiced Diageo 118.9 20.2 20.4
9 9 Baileys Original Diageo 116.9 10.6 10.0
10 11 Bacardi Bacardi 114.3 16.3 16.6
Top 5 RTDs
        £m £ change %
Total volume change: 18.7%   Total Category: 396.9 71.1 21.8
      Total Own Label: 52.0 2.4 4.8
This year’s rank Last year’s rank Brand Manufacturer £m change (£m) change (%)
1 1 WKD Blue Beverage Brands 42.7 11.7 37.9
2 2 Gordon’s Pink G&T Diageo 31.1 4.0 14.6
3 3 Jack Daniel’s & Cola BBFB 28.9 2.9 11.1
4 4 Smirnoff Ice Diageo 21.8 3.5 19.4
5 6 Gordon’s G&T Diageo 16.9 –0.2 –1.4



The Grocer’s Top Launch

White Claw

White Claw Mark Anthony Brands

Hard seltzer brand White Claw took the US by storm last year, shifting 80 million cases and even inspiring some fans to get tattoos of the can or haircuts inspired by the logo. Now the boozy water – which provides 95kcals per 330ml can – is finally available in the UK. It landed in June in Raspberry, Natural Lime and Black Cherry, marking its debut outside North America. As a sign of its potential, White Claw had to wait no more than a month before inspiring an Aldi version, Nordic Wolf.

Top Products Survey 2020: How Food Came Home