The value of alcoholic drink sales climbed to £24.4bn—around £428m higher than in 2015, according to CGA’s exclusive Alcohol Sales Tracker. This contrasts with a 1.7% fall in volume sales across the same period.
“Against a background of sketchy consumer confidence and economic uncertainty it is a solid performance, reflecting the strength and innovation of pub, bar and restaurant operators around the country and the continuing move towards more premium products,” said Phil Tate chief executive of CGA Strategy, the leading out-of-home research and insight consultancy.
“It shows that people are drinking less, but looking for better quality,” he added.
Growth in 2016 was notably high in the food-led sector of the market, with value of sales here up by 4.4%. This follows extensive new openings of casual dining brands in particular, as well as significant improvements in the drinks offers of many restaurants.
“Sales in the drinks-led sector of the market rose by 0.6%—a slower rate of value growth but,” said Tate, “an encouraging achievement gave the ongoing closures of many local and community pubs in Britain.”
Sales were also buoyant in the managed side of the licensed trade. Sales here were up by 3.3% in 2016, driven by the efforts of managed groups to enhance their pub and restaurant brands. There was also growth in the independent free trade sector, with value of sales rising by 1.7% in 2016.
“This growth reflects the huge range of choice in the drinks market now, from value options up to premium brands. The variety of beer, wine and spirits available to pubs, bars and restaurants presents opportunities to grow alcohol sales again in 2017—but only if operators can curate the right ranges,” added Tate.
“Our figures show a licensed trade that is promoting its drinks well amid some pretty tough trading conditions. They also serve as a reminder that there has never been a more important time to have a drinks offer that is considered, compelling and customer-centric—that gives consumers options without overwhelming them.”
He added of sales in restaurants and other food-led businesses: “With many costs rising and real terms growth hard to come by, the eating-out sector is a market share game right now. Restaurants that provide interesting and distinctive ranges of drinks will have a much better chance of driving footfall and loyalty in the years ahead.”