In addition, £672m ($857m USD) of gin was exported in 2019, taking total sales for British gin to over £3.2bn ($4.1bn USD)
The growth in UK sales represents 14% growth in volume and 24% in value: while gin sales have almost doubled in value over the last two years.
Continuing the ginnaissance
The growth in gin sales began to emerge in 2013 when British consumers started to show renewed interest in the juniper-based spirit, notes the UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).
Continued growth over the next three years prompted entrepreneurs to invest in artisanal brands, leading to an explosion in new distilleries around the country.
The sale of 83 million bottles in 2019 compares to just 33 million bottles back in 2013; while a value of £2.6bn in 2019 has shot up from £746m in 2013.
In 2013 there were 152 distilleries in the UK, 96 of those were in Scotland. In 2019 the picture has changed dramatically: with at least 441 distilleries across the UK and with England now boasting the largest number of distilleries.
While growth in gin may have seen a peak in 2018 – where volumes sales were up 42% and value sales up 50% - gin sales continued to grow albeit at a slower pace in 2019. Part of its growth has been spurred by drinkers spreading their experimental wings and trying an even greater array of spirits and cocktails, with British distillers offering an increasingly diverse range of innovations.
Gin’s growth has also prompted growth in other spirits, such as premium English and Welsh whisky.
The coronavirus curve-ball
A big question for 2020 will be how the gin category has fared after months of closure for UK pubs, bars and restaurants as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the WSTA notes that consumers’ appetite for the spirit does not appear to have diminished.
“Lockdown hasn’t dulled our enthusiasm for this most British of spirits - a CGA snap survey at the end of March revealed that gin was the most popular spirit being bought online, and behind only wine and beer as our most popular digitally-secured tipple,” said Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
“Gin sales continued to grow throughout 2019 despite a number of predictions that the bubble will have to burst soon.
“We knew that growth in the gin category would slow eventually, it was always inevitable given the incredible numbers we were seeing from 2016 onwards. We remain optimistic that British gin will continue to create a stir at home and abroad as our innovative distillers continue to produce new colours, creations and botanical masterpieces.”
Gin: just the tonic for the UK’s post-pandemic recovery?
A large number of gin distilleries are small independent businesses, who find themselves particularly vulnerable during the pandemic. On the other hand, gin's growing popularity on an international scale could help the category become a post-pandemic success story.
“Provided that SMEs can survive the ongoing economic uncertainty wrought by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that gin’s success can be maintained at home and replicated abroad as our distillers look to export,” said Beale.
“British spirits are world renowned. Provided our SMEs can survive the current economic uncertainty there is potential – and significant motivation – to build UK spirits exports. But, this will need the right Government support, especially for SME distillers. We believe British gin exports could be a tonic for British SMEs post-pandemic recovery.”