Gin proves a festive favorite with Christmas sales up 18%: IRI

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Gin proved a popular part of Christmas celebrations in 2016. Pic: iStock/Lilechka75
Gin proved a popular part of Christmas celebrations in 2016. Pic: iStock/Lilechka75

Related tags: Gin

Christmas sales of gin have confirmed the spirit’s renaissance in the UK, with gin now the biggest growth driver in the spirits category, according to IRI. 

In the Christmas trading period, gin sales in supermarkets were up 18.3% (12 weeks up to Dec 31, 2016) on the same period in 2015, worth £136m ($164m).  

Gin is now worth more than £3bn ($3.6bn) a year in the UK overall. For the UK’s top nine retailers (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, Co-op Foods, M&S Food, Iceland, Ocado) it is worth £420m ($506m) a year, up 14.5% in sales on 2015.

Martin Wood, head of strategic insight, retail, IRI, said, “Gin was perceived as a bit old-fashioned a few years ago. But with the growth in craft gins and premium varieties, supermarkets have been keen to invest in market trends and to stock new gin lines and premium brands.

“Gin is the spirit of choice right now and we don’t see this changing any time soon.”

Gin is also rising as a popular gift item, observes IRI.

G&T still top

While consumers may be looking for innovation and new varieties, sales of tonic water show that the traditional gin and tonic remains a favorite and consumers are less tempted by other mixers.

Sales of tonic water reached £98m ($118m) in 2016, up 12% over the previous year. In contrast, other mixers grew 5.2%.

The 12-week period to Christmas saw 13% sales growth, with a third of all tonic water (£28m / $34m) sold during this period.

Spirits boost overall grocery category

Meanwhile, the overall beers, wines & spirits (BWS) category grew 1.5% overall in 2016. Although the growth appears relatively modest, it comes at a time where total food and drink sales show overall value decline and thus IRI identifies the BWS category as a ‘vital growth driver’. The BWS category is worth £12.3bn ($14.8bn) overall.

The BWS category was the biggest single sector to contribute to grocery growth this Christmas, growing 3% against a backdrop of 1.6% for total grocery.

“Christmas was a ‘bonanza’ this year for retailers, with booze sales of £3.7bn ($4.5bn), 3% growth over the same period the previous year,”​ said Wood.

Whisky, vodka and cognac/brandy all grew by 0.4%, to £1bn ($1.2bn), £784m ($944m) and £230m ($277m) respectively. Dark rum products were up 8% in supermarkets, thanks to the use of the spirit in cocktails. 

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