It’s back. The Grocer has published its annual list of Britain’s biggest alcohol brands and the results might be a surprise. The media headlines are about teetotal young millennials. Or rising health consciousness among consumers. Within the sector there’s been a focus on the huge growth in low/no alcohol products. This might suggest it’s been a difficult year. However, the drinks sector appears to be in good health. Here’s our take out from this year’s list of Britain’s top 100 alcohol brands.
Britain’s biggest alcohol brands 2019: a good year
The picture appears to be rosy for the sector. The top 100 brands generated £10.2 billion in sales, an increase of over £750 million on 2018. Unsurprisingly, the top 10 had another good year.
Over £300 million of growth in sales came from 8 brands in the top 10 who grew over the last year. Stella, Budweiser and Strongbow all saw sales increase by over £40 million apiece. Not bad though as some commentators have suggested, they all benefited from England’s showing in the World Cup alongside a decent summer. Gordon’s growth, the biggest of any brand is phenomenal adding over £156 million in sales. This has largely been by its pink gin showing that craft brands might win hearts and minds but the big brands can innovate successfully too.
Fosters, Smirnoff and Hardy’s all saw modest growth too. Carling was the only brand in the top 10 to see significant losses with Carling Cider falling out of favour with retailers.
Britain’s biggest alcohol brands: this year’s winners
Gordon’s might be the biggest winner from this year’s list of Britain’s biggest alcohol brands but there are plenty of other brands who saw solid gains.
Moretti, Heineken and Amstel all saw excellent growth as consumers continued to spend more on better quality beers. This trend has seen Carlsberg relaunch its core beer as a Danish Pilsner. A completely new recipe and a clever ad campaign that acknowledges that its beer probably wasn’t that good. Only time will tell whether it can win back consumers. Estrella Damn and Hop House 13 also saw solid growth. For now the premium beer brands seem to be doing well.
The trend towards premiumisation (or drinking less but better) is evident too in the spirits brands who saw the most growth. Whitley Neill, Tanqueray and Edinburgh Gin have all seen growth in their flavoured gins. Consumer fondness for the gin shows no signs of slowing down.
It’s not all plain sailing: brands in decline
2018/19 has been a good year for most of the brands in the top 100. However, it’s not without casualties.
It’s been a bad year for a number of brands across all of the categories. The reasons for each brand’s woes vary though. Jacob’s Creek, Echo Falls and Blossom Hill are likely victims of retailers (and consumers) seeking higher quality (for retailers read margin) wines. Others like Villa Maria have experienced supply challenges. Ditto with some of the beers that struggled. Beck’s was hit by posher beers in the aisle and more choice in the low/no ABV range.
In each category, fortunes have been mixed. Take cider.
It’s been a good year for most of the brands. Strongbow fared best. Those with a story or a more premium offer like Thatchers, Westons and Old Mout did well too. Kopparberg also grew significantly with Bulmers, Rekorderling and Frosty Jacks’s all declining slightly. The reasons behind the results to vary. Strongbow’s growth comes largely from dark fruit. So why did Rekorderig, a more expensive cider (with better margins) struggle?
Britain’s biggest alcohol brands 2019: a tougher year ahead
On the surface the list of Britain’s biggest alcohol brands presents a rosy picture of the sector. Yet the picture is more complex. 10 brands accounted for almost £520 million of the £750 million growth in sales. Stripping out the big winners shows more modest gains for the wider sector. Consumer behaviour is also more complex than the headlines. Health concerns too among all age groups are likely driving a lowering of volume but increased spend per purchase. The same buyers of craft gins are also buying low ABV beers to enjoy during the week.
The next 12 months will be more challenging. Already the signs are the consumer spending will grow at its lowest levels for six years. Brexit uncertainty is likely to tip the UK into recession before the end of the year. This is likely to further dent consumer confidence and spending. It might slow growth for the premium brands but bring respite to lower cost products. Whatever happens, it’s going to be tough for Britain’s alcohol brands over the coming year.