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Christmas Alcohol Sales Drivers

The pandemic has shifted significant alcohol sales from on trade to off trade. The Grocer is reporting that total retail sales of alcohol have surged by over 18% this year according to Kantar. Amazon is another winner with very strong sales growth particularly in spirits. The Grocer is also reporting that average transaction values are rising as consumers are looking for quality products and premium brands. Wine at home continues to be a big winner.

The mix of sales and the trends change year on year. The themes from last year are coming through even stronger for 2021.

  • A move to low or no alcohol variants. Particularly in lager. This is being driven by younger consumers who are looking to drink less alcohol.
  • The shift from standard to premium. This is becoming prevalent in the spirits category driven by the “less is more” approach to alcohol consumption. Less quantity but more quality.
  • The shift to premiumisation in beers.
  • An increase in the cocktails at home activity.
  • Drinks for socializing, which in turn is linked to cocktails and sparkling wines.

Beers & Ciders

Categories and growth trends to watch

  • Craft ales and amber ales.
  • Super premium lagers such as: Corona, Super Bock, Sagres, Asahi and Perroni.
  • Low/no alcohol lagers
  • Flavoured lager
  • Flavoured ciders. These ranges are continually expanding. 
  • Multi-packs for sharing and parties.
  • Mini kegs – sales are growing fast from a low base.


The entire category enjoys growth and again there is a move to more premium & higher priced products.

  • Sparkling wine continues to be a category driver. Sales of Prosecco are very strong and have overtaken champagne as the “go to” sparkling wine. Don’t neglect Spumante’s and Cava’s as alternatives.
  • Fruit wines are in growth.
  • Rose wine is a popular party drink.
  • Vermouths are an important cocktail mixer so should be available.
  • Single serve 187ml sizes offer a great profit opportunity. 
  • Champagne is always popular and will be in demand on both Christmas and New Years Eve.

Fortified Wines and Ports

There is still a robust market for sherry and port at Christmas. One version of each should be stocked.

Spirits & Liqueurs

Cocktails are the driver in this category. Gin is still leading the way in sales with growth of 33% over the last three years. There is also a strong surge in sales of premium spirits such as malt whiskies. Also, it’s important to offer gift boxes for customers looking to give spirits as presents. Low and no spirits is now a fast growing segment of this category.

  • Premium gins and vodkas are growing strongly.
  • Malt whiskeys are taking off.
  • Golden rum is being tipped as the next big sales driver. 
  • Bourbons remain highly popular
  • Shot spirits are strong sellers.
  • Miniatures are a great opportunity.
  • All 20cl and 35cl standard spirits see a big lift in the season.
  • RTD pre-mixes sell well. The top sku being Jack Daniels and Coke.
  • Cream liqueurs always lift off at Christmas. The leading brand continues to be Baileys. 

Cocktails & Shots

It is very difficult to accommodate all ingredients for cocktails & shots in a small store. Some recommendations.

  • White Rum
  • Jagermeister
  • Malibu
  • Cointreau
  • Grand Marnier
  • Disaronno
  • Benedictine
  • Cherry Brandy
  • Blue Curacao
  • Grenadine

Cocktail Accessories

This area can yield great profits from a small space.

  • Lemon slices
  • Cocktail cherries
  • Umbrellas
  • Stirrers
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Straws

Mixer Drinks

There is a lot of brand development happening in this category. For years the leader has been Schweppes. Fever Tree and Fentimans are now challenging this position.  

  • The top selling mixer is tonic. Tonic flavours are becoming popular such as elderflower and rhubarb
  • Ginger is now gaining popularity as a cocktail mixer. 
  • Don’t neglect the low calorie versions of all the mixers.
  • Orange, pineapple and cranberry juice are important cocktail mixers.
  • Soda water & lemonade is important.

Enjoy the Christmas opportunity! Cheers!

David Gilroy

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