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Britons Drinking Less But Drinking Better

The latest edition of CGA’s Alcohol Sales Tracker reveals a fall in the volume of drinks sales but rising interest in premium bars and drinks

British drinkers are increasingly favouring premium drinks from branded pubs and upmarket bars, new data from CGA’s exclusive Alcohol Sales Tracker reveals.

The research estimates the total value of the out-of-home alcoholic drinks market at £24.6 billion in the year to mid-June—a year-on-year increase of just 0.6%, but against a decline of 2.6% in volume terms. It continues a long-term slowdown as British consumers scale back their drinking occasions and spend a little more money on slightly fewer drinks. The reduction has been most apparent in London, where growth in the value of sales has more than halved in the last year.

The Alcohol Sales Tracker reveals a particular drop in sales of alcoholic drinks through leased and tenanted pubs, and only marginal growth among independent operators. Instead, consumers are increasingly opting to drink at premium bars and managed pubs, often combining their visits with eating. CGA classifies 35% of the out-of-home drinking market as premium—but these outlets now account for 47% of all sales by value, and are gaining market share each year. Sales growth through the managed pub sector is also healthy, standing at 2.8% in the year to mid-June.

Amongst the trends revealed by the latest Alcohol Sales Tracker is the above-average sales value growth of 2% in the cider sector, partly driven by warm spring and early summer weather, powerful brand marketing and the rising popularity of artisan producers. By contrast, sales growth in spirits has halved in the past year.

The research suggests that more drinkers are heeding messages about healthy levels of alcohol consumption, and are becoming more adventurous in their choices when they do decide to go out.

CGA chief executive Phil Tate said: “Our figures reveal the increasing complexity and sophistication of Britain’s out-of-home drinks market. The small fall in volume sales rebuts the much-publicised idea that levels of unhealthy drinking are soaring, suggesting instead that consumers are continuing to demand better quality when they choose to drink out.”

“While we are still seeing value growth it is no surprise we have seen a small decline in this figure. Market conditions at the end of H1 2017 are different to conditions at the end of 2016. We’ve had the referendum, two major terror attacks and a snap election. The fact that there is still growth shows how resilient consumers are, how customer-centric the market remains.”

Tate added: “Brands that can supply their customers with the right range, atmosphere and experience, and establish clear points of difference from the mainstream, will be best placed to thrive in the years ahead. Staying on top of drinks trends via the Alcohol Sales Tracker and CGA’s other research services will be paramount in achieving that.”

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