UK consumers spent £36m on gin in week before Christmas, IRI reports

UK consumers spent £36 million on gin in supermarkets during the week before Christmas, a 45% increase on the previous year, according to the latest retail data from global insight leader IRI (to Saturday 23 December). That equates to 2.2 million bottles bought; 636,000 more than in 2016. This also helped boost value(£) sales of mixers by 30% in Christmas week, which pushed sales of soft drinks up 5.9%. For the year as a whole, total market sales of gin on a 52-week basis are currently up 28% by value versus 2016.

Sales of sparkling wine – including prosecco – in Christmas week were down -1.1% in value and -1.6% in the number of bottles sold compared with 2016. However, 8.8m bottles of sparkling wine were sold in that one week, so while the prosecco bubble may have burst the fizz certainly hasn’t gone flat.

Overall, the data from IRI’s Retail Advantage – which measures sales from major UK grocery multiples (excluding discounters) – shows that consumers spent £13.9 billion on FMCG products in supermarkets over the five weeks before Christmas (to 23 December). This is a 1.9% increase on 2016. Grocery (food) value sales over the five weeks were up 3.1% compared with the same period last year, but as inflation is running at around 3% this makes sales about flat. Unit sales (volume sold) were up only marginally, by 0.3%.

Sales of non-food items have declined (a noticeable trend since the summer of 2017), with value sales dropping -1.4% and unit sales down by -5.5%. The categories most affected are flowers, fragrances, technology, electrical, kitchen appliances and CDs/DVDs. Consumer spend on music and gaming declined -26.4% on 2016, as people continue to drift away from traditional presents.

Consumers bought more frozen meat last Christmas than they did in 2016 – with sales overall up 11.3% by value in Christmas week. In the five weeks to 23 December sales of frozen whole turkeys and turkey crowns increased by 8.6% in value to £23m, and 9.4% more packs were sold. Frozen products have been selling well all year – partly due to consumers looking to economise by wasting less, and partly because retailers have increased the availability of frozen food by investing in more freezer space and own label ranges. However, more than £55 million worth of fresh turkey was sold in Christmas week alone by the supermarkets.

“Some categories did really well over Christmas – notably gin, which has taken over from prosecco and craft ales as the UK’s trendy tipple, and certain party and gift foods such as snacks, biscuits and confectionery,” said Martin Wood, IRI’s head of strategic insight, retail solutions & innovation. “However, this was not enough to compensate for the decline in sales of non-food products, which were hit by Black Friday bargains and the popularity of online vendors.Discounters are also likely to have gained grocery share from the supermarkets.

“Retailers are wisely reducing their in-store range and dependency on non-food. Supermarkets can continue to flourish by building their grocery offer to compete with discounters and the likes of Amazon, which is attacking this space. Success strategies for 2018 will include focusing on new and well-loved branded products which differentiate the offer, diversifying into growth areas like food-to-go, and optimising the range to give consumers what they want without unnecessary capital tied up in slow-moving stock.”

Other highlights from IRI’s data on the week ending 23 December 2017 include:

  • Beer, wine and spirits sales are up only slightly on last year, growing by 0.1% (value sales). Vodka (-2.6%) and white rum (-4.1%) are down vs last year. Ale sales are also down (-5.4%) vs 2016, when the craft ale boom was at its peak. Still wine is growing (especially red wine), with sales up 2.4% in terms of spend. We bought 41.5m bottles of wine from supermarkets in the week before Christmas.
  • Other ‘treat’ products were also strongly up – partly due to price rises. Sweet biscuits are up 10.9% in value sales, with 5.9% more units sold. Salty nuts and popcorn are up 6.6% in value, with units sold down -0.8%. Crisps and bagged snacks are up 3.2% in value, with 3.6% more units sold. Confectionery value sales are up 4.1%, with units sold up 0.6%.

According to IRI’s Retail Advantage, the 10 most-bought branded FMCG products in supermarkets during Christmas week 2017 (not including retailers’ own labels) were:

    Units sold (million)
1 Coke Regular (1750ml) 2.61
2 Pringles Sour Cream & Onion (200g) 2.51
3 Pringles Original (200g) 2.49
4 Daily Mail (Saturday) 2.28
5 Warburtons Toastie Sliced White Bread (800g) 2.09
6 Terry’s Chocolate Orange Milk Ball (40g) 1.73
7 Celebrations Tub (680g) 1.72
8 The Sun 1.62
9 Pepsi Max Regular (2000ml) 1.52
10 Hovis Soft Medium White Sliced Bread (800g) 1.49