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Ten top 10 alcoholic drinks

30 June
00:00 2006
The Checkout/ACNielsen Ten Top 10 alcoholic drinks league tables reveal the trends in an ever-changing take-home drinks market. Mike Dennis analyses the results and points the way to future trends

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The leading alcoholic drinks brands may have retained their positions in the market but this year’s Checkout/ACNielsen Ten Top 10 Alcoholic Drinks feature shows the UK take-home drinks trade is going through some subtle, but surprising, changes at the moment.

The wine category that has enjoyed sustained growth for many years has come to a halt and only time will tell whether this situation is just a blip or a long term trend. Even Champagne sales have fallen back slightly, although total sparkling wine sales are growing.

In beer, premium lager is suffering and total canned ale sales are in decline, with the occasional brand exception. Stella Artois is still the biggest off-trade drinks brand by a long way, but its second successive year of decline accounts for much of the premium lager category losses.

The off-trade beer market is running just over 1% up year-on-year but the World Cup will boost volumes and brewers are looking for a 4% to 5% rise in 2006 over 2005. Whether retailers make any more money out of the category is open to discussion, with case deals now a fact of life during periods of high demand, in particular the summer and pre-Christmas.

Standard lager’s revival continues and the sector is also being boosted by new brand development, including the 4% alcohol-by-volume Beck’s Vier and the 4.1% abv Bud Silver, originally launched in Scotland but about to be rolled out nationally by Anheuser-Busch this month (July).

Cider is a category re-born, helped by the phenomenal success of Magners and the continued support for market leader Strongbow. Cider is also being boosted by new product development, with 2006 seeing three new ciders – Gaymers Original, Addlestones and Orchard Reserve – from The Gaymer Cider Company and the return of Bulmers Original by S&N UK.

Alcoholic RTDs, with the exception of WKD and a couple of the minor brands, are still declining fast, with many drinkers now seeming to switch to spirits, cider or even lager.

Total wine sales may have slipped back 2%, according to ACNielsen figures, but most of the leading branded wines are still in rude health. Rosé wine is steaming ahead, with the latest ACNielsen figures showing sales up 35% year-on-year.

There is still no sign of ‘vodka fatigue’, despite one market report that suggested consumers were looking to switch into more ‘interesting’ spirits, such as rum. Gin is still enjoying its modest revival, while most of the leading dark spirits, both whisky and Cognac, are performing well. There is more of a mixed picture in liqueurs and specialities, while fortified wine is still a difficult market for many brand owners.

Harveys Bristol Cream, the leading fortified wine brand, is back in growth, while Baileys, the number one liqueur, has hit the buffers for the first time in many years.

The Checkout/ACNielsen “10×10” alcoholic league tables cover the leading drinks categories and how they have performed in the total take-home trade over the past year. The figures clearly show which brands are the movers and shakers in the market and which brands are in decline.

Top 10 lagers

Stella Artois remains the biggest alcoholic drinks brand by some considerable distance, even though sales declined (down by 2.7%) for the second successive year, accounting for much of premium lager’s losses (down around 1% over the past year).

Some industry observers believe the lager market is going through a major shift at the moment, with drinkers turning to the lower strength lagers.

Standard lager is running around 9% ahead of last year, with some off-trade brands benefiting from on-trade activity, such as S&N UK’s ‘cold programme’ in the off-trade.

There are now five standard lagers in the top 10, with Castlemaine XXXX ousting Carlsberg Special Brew. These leading standard lagers are all in healthy growth, with Tennent’s Lager (up 15.9%) leading the way in Scotland.

Carlsberg Export (up 13.3%) is the fastest-growing premium lager in the top 10, with Budweiser and Kronenbourg 1664 in more modest growth. Stella Artois is in decline, with Grolsch (down 16.5%) the biggest loser. Coors Brewers is looking to reverse the fortunes of Grolsch with the launch of a new-look 300ml bottle this month (July) and a price-marked eight-pack for the impulse channel.

Naturally enough, the World Cup is expected to boost lager sales over the summer.

Top 10 ales and stouts

The ale market remains a difficult sector, with off-trade sales 2% down. There are success stories, however, within the category, whether that is the continued growth of John Smith’s Extra Smooth or Old Speckled Hen’s emergence as the leading premium ale.

S&N UK seems to have backed a winner with John Smith’s sponsorship of the Grand National. John Smith’s Extra Smooth (up 10.8%) remains the fastest-growing brand in the ales and stouts top 10 and is now within sight of Guinness Draught (up 3.1%), which continues its steady year-by-year growth. By contrast, Guinness Original (down 7.1%) continues to decline, but it remains clearly the fourth biggest brand in the category.

The canned ale market, John Smith’s Extra Smooth apart, is in deep trouble with four of the top 10 brands in almost terminal decline. Additionally, Tetley’s Original has dropped out of the top 10, being replaced by Murphy’s stout.

The flipside to this scenario is the still buoyant nature of the fragmented premium bottled ale market. Greene King’s Old Speckled Hen is now the main brand, just ahead of Newcastle Brown, and there are reputedly plans by Greene King to widen the appeal of Old Speckled Hen beyond ale drinkers and to market it as a ‘premium beer’.

Top 10 ciders and perries

Five of the top eight ciders in this category’s top 10 may be declining but the market as a whole is going through quite a revolution at the moment. Total sales are ahead by 11% in the off-trade, with sales through the major multiples surging ahead at 15%-plus.

Magners is now in the top 10 take-home list for the first time with sales growing more than six-fold over the past year. Magners started the trend to drink cider over ice in the on-trade and the brand is translating its pub success into a buoyant off-trade position.

S&N UK is now promoting Strongbow (up 16.2%) as an over-ice brand in some of its publicity and heavy support is more than consolidating its position as clear market leader.

Despite renewed consumer interest in cider, more established cider brands are losing sales fast.

White ciders are certainly not disappearing, despite S&N UK’s decision not to promote its White Lightning cider with extra free promotions. Aston Manor Brewery’s Frosty Jack’s is benefiting the most with sales up 42.7%, while White Lightning has fallen 41.1%.

Lambrini (down 4.8%) is the leading perry by a long way, despite a fall in sales, while Country Manor (12.5%) is in strong growth, all be it from a much smaller base.

Top 10 ready to drinks

The alcoholic ready to drinks market continues its rapid decline with the category unable to attract enough new drinkers to offset the former consumers (mainly female) who are turning to alternatives, such as wine, cider, spirits and even lager.

It can be of no coincidence that the only major brand to buck this trend is WKD (up 10.3%), which through its advertising and promotional approach is more overtly targeted at young male drinkers.

There are some pretty sensational declines to be found in alcoholic RTDs, with Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer, Red Square, Archers Aqua and Reef all experiencing double digit falls in market values. Bacardi Breezer’s decline has been somewhat tempered by the almost £7m sales gained by last year’s launch of the Bacardi Breezer Half Sugar range.

Greenalls Gin & Tonic (up 42.9%) may point the way for the category in the future and this is certainly the current thinking at Diageo, which recently launched its Classic Mix range in 700ml bottles. The leading spirits company believes there is a gap in the market for classic spirit mixed drinks, so it has introduced Gordon’s & Tonic, Smirnoff & Cola, Smirnoff, Lime & Soda and Morgan’s Spiced Rum & Cola.

Top 10 wines

Wine is in decline for the first time in a decade, with the latest ACNielsen data showing sales falling by 2%. White wine and Champagne are down, red wine is static, but both sparkling wine and rosé are forging ahead.

The big branded wines are still fuelling the take-home wine sector, with eight of the top 10 in growth. The Hardys range (up 9.4%) remains the biggest wine brand, but Blossom Hill (up 24.7%) and E&J Gallo (up 27.1%) are fast catching up.

The other big movers are Kumala (up 19.2%), Banrock Station (up 27.3%) and Wolf Blass (up 33.3%). A question market hangs over the future of the leading South African brand Kumala, following the takeover of parent company Vincor International by US wine giant Constellation Brands earlier this year. Higher levels of support for Wolf Blass, not least the brand’s sponsorship involvement in last summer’s Ashes series in England and a tactical pricing policy in the major multiples, have helped to push the brand up the top 10 league table.

Echo Falls, the value-for-money California wine from Constellation Europe, enters the top 10 for the first time, pushing Aussie brand Rosemount out of the big time. Industry insiders expect some big news on Rosemount for later in the year. The only other losers in the top 10 are Jacob’s Creek (down 3.7%) and Lindemans (down 21.6%).

Top 10 Champagnes

The bubble has not burst yet for Champagne, even though sales are currently 1% down, according to recent ACNielsen data. Five of the top 10 Champagnes are in decline, when a year ago seven of the leading brands were in growth.

The leading bubbly brands, Moët & Chandon (up 13.5%) and Veuve Clicquot (up 12.3%) are still performing well ahead of the market. Nicolas Feuillatte (up 6.2%) is now the fourth biggest brand – up from seventh place last year – after being more of a niche player just a few years ago. Sales grew by 30% between 2004 and 2005.

Bollinger (up 8.5%) has turned round last year’s 15% fall in sales to cement a solid sixth place in what has been the most difficult 12 months for the Champagne market for some years.

Concerns over the UK economy and increasing competition from the sparkling wine market, which is growing 7% on a year-on-year basis, have impacted on Champagne sales, with the biggest losers being Lanson, Laurent-Perrier, Taittinger, Piper Heidsieck and Mumm Cordon Rouge.

The UK still remains the biggest export market for Champagne and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, unless the economy does go into a steep decline in the meantime.

Top 10 white spirits

There is certainly no sign of ‘vodka fatigue’ in the UK take-home market.

That scenario is not being acted out in the off-trade, with the six vodka brands in the top 10 white spirits forging ahead. It does not seem to matter to their performances whether they are the more premium brands, such as Smirnoff Red Label or Absolut, or the more value-for-money lines, such as Glen’s Vodka and Chekov Imperial.

Smirnoff Red Label (up 18.8%) is not only the leading white spirit, it has also built on its lead as the take-home trade’s best-selling spirits brand. Demand for vodka, with sales still enjoying double digit growth, shows no sign of abating, Absolut (up 26.3%) enters the top 10 for the first time, while Glen’s Vodka (up 11.1%) is now firmly the number two vodka brand, helped by sales across the multiples and the independent sector. Booker’s Chekov Imperial (up 4%) also emphasises the importance of the impulse trade to vodka sales, particularly in half- and quarter-bottle sizes. Halewood International’s Red Square (up 61.8%) is the fastest-growing brand in the top 10 listing.

Gin’s progress is more modest, but at least market leader Gordon’s Gin (up 4.4%) is slowly going in the right direction, although number two gin Bombay Sapphire is pretty static. Bacardi (up 1.7%) remains the number three white spirit brand.

Top 10 dark spirits

Last year, it looked likely that Bell’s eight-year-old, once the leading take-home alcoholic drink, would lose its position as the number one dark spirit to rival The Famous Grouse. But, increased focus by brand owner Diageo has seen Bell’s (up 8.4%) move away from The Famous Grouse (up 4%).

Diageo invested £2m behind Bell’s last Christmas in joint advertising campaigns with major retailers on radio, in newspapers and online, while The Famous Grouse has been equally high profile with TV ad support and on-going sponsorship of the Scottish rugby union team.

In fact, the leading dark spirit brands are performing pretty well at the moment, with seven of the top 10 in growth, Martell Cognac static and only William Grant’s (down 8.5%) and Whyte and Mackay (down 13.7%) in decline.

Teacher’s Highland Cream (up 5%) returned to growth after last year’s 14% fall with the help of a £1.5m pre-Christmas campaign. Jack Daniel’s (up 9.9%) continues to build on its popularity in the on-trade.

Courvoisier is helping to turn the tide for a category that only two or three years ago seemed destined for terminal decline. Courvoisier (up 8.2%) has led the way with a marketing campaign for the premium XO Imperial style that has had a beneficial knock-on effect for Courvoisier VS.

Top 10 fortified wines

It’s not quite doom and gloom all round in the fortified wines’ top 10 this year. Last year, nine of the top 10 brands were in decline, but this year there are four brands growing, one new brand and five brands in decline, with Martini (down 0.8%) almost back in growth for the first time in years.

Harveys Bristol Cream (up 8.8%), now under new ownership, has returned to growth, although this is not necessarily signalling a revival for the sherry market as the market leader seems to have taken sales off Croft Original (down 8.9%) over the past year.

A new entry to the top 10 is Buckfast Tonic Wine (up 17.9%), made in Devon by monks and mainly consumed in Scotland, where it has become something of a cult product. The brand is probably the leading fortified wine north of the border and it is now said to be gaining ground in England and Wales as well.

Getting the deal right at Christmas has been vital for port brands in recent years and some of the leading brands, such as Taylor’s Select Port, are often only available over the festive period.

This situation has seen brand leader Cockburn’s Special Reserve (up 3.1%) take a few hits over the years, but marketing and promotional support last Christmas turned round a 20%-plus decline the year before.

Top 10 liqueurs and speciality drinks

Baileys (down 4.6%) may remain the leading liqueur by some distance, being almost four times as big as Southern Comfort (up 3.5%), but the brand has declined over the past year, taking it below the £100m value mark first achieved in 2004/05. The main beneficiaries seem to be the value-for-money cream liqueurs, including Irish Meadow (up 6.6%) and Irish Knights (up 16%).

The big success story remains Pimm’s No 1 (up 17.7%), which has managed to capture the imagination of the drinking public since the sizzling summer of 2003, when the value of the brand rose by 50%. There was a slight decline the following year but last year’s average summer again saw sales race ahead, with Pimm’s No 1 boosted by heavyweight support through TV advertising and the brand’s ‘Harry’ character. It is no surprise that ‘Harry’ is again on our TV screens this summer.

Malibu (up 13.2%) has moved ahead of fellow Pernod Ricard brand Tia Maria (down 6.6%) even though the ‘Flavours’ range has been dropped. Heavyweight support for Malibu that links the brand to a laid-back Caribbean lifestyle is continuing this year and so further growth is likely over the next 12 months.

The market situation is not so rosy for Archers Peach (down 10.9%), Cointreau (down 4.5%) and Drambuie (down 2.4%).

How 10 x 10 Drinks is compiled

All market data for the 10 x 10 Drinks is sourced from ACNielsen, a VNU company, the world’s leading marketing information company. Offering services in more than 100 countries, the company provides measurement and analysis of marketplace dynamics and consumer attitudes and behaviour. Clients rely on ACNielsen’s market research, proprietary products, analytical tools and professional service to understand competitive performance, to uncover new opportunities and to raise the profitability of their marketing and sales campaigns.

* ACNielsen, is the recognised authority on the alcoholic drinks trade in the UK and provides market data information and analysis to brewers, distillers, vintners, importers and retailers.

The 10 x 10 Drinks survey is produced exclusively for Checkout and is sourced from ACNielsen’s Scantrack Impulse Service for Great Britain. Scantrack Impulse incorporates all store data from most of the major multiple retailers with a sample of outlets from other multiple retailers and independents to represent the 43,000 off-licences currently trading.

* Scantrack Impulse covers a cross-selection of trading sectors operating in the market, i.e. specialist, multiples, independents, convenience stores and co-ops.

* All brand values attributed are pound sterling. Flavour ranges are combined within Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages to produce a total for the particular brand.

* The period covered by the survey is for the year ending 23 April 2005 to 22 April 2006. The change in sales value compares performance to the year ending 22 April 2006.

* ACNielsen’s Retail Measurement Services provide comprehensive information on actual purchases, market shares, distribution, pricing and merchandising and promotional activities and are the fastest and most accurate monitor of consumer sales in Europe.

n Nielsen Media Research is the leading and most comprehensive provider of advertising expenditure measurement in the UK. Nielsen Media Research’s global media measurement service includes television audience measurement in 18 countries, radio audience measurement in 11 markets and advertising expenditure measurement in 30 countries.

* In addition to customised research, ACNielsen also offers consumer panel research, which tracks the buying behaviour and demographics of more than 135,000 households in 20 countries, primarily through hand-held, in-home scanners (10,500 households in the UK).

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