The losses came from the closure of the hospitality sector during lockdown, which saw volume sales in UK bars and restaurants plummet 61% with value sales down by 60% in 2020.
WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “Our great British distillers did their best to keep businesses afloat during the challenging lockdowns of the pandemic, many of [whom] switched operations to the produce hand sanitiser for their local communities.
“These latest figures show the punishing losses faced by distillers across the UK at a time when millions of pounds of private investment and hard work had been poured into the sector.”
Sales of vodka have recently reported to have overtaken sales of gin, despite the gin market picking up speed once again as restrictions began to lift, with sales of the spirit in the 12 months to the end of 2021 hitting £2.1bn in the on and off trade, equivalent to almost 80m bottles of house gin, according to data from WSTA.
WSTA data also showed a record number of bottles of gin were sold in its shops and online in 2020, with over 78m bottles sold, compared to 64m bottles sold in the off trade in 2019.
Levelling the playing field
This comes after Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak last week left some calling for further Government support to help the drinks trade recover in the aftermath of Covid, following no mention of the extension of the reduced rate of VAT or alcohol duty his Spring Statement.
Beale added: “To support British SME distillers to make up their losses, stop them going under and encourage their recovery, the Government should do 3 things: extend the hospitality VAT cut, modify the proposed Small Producers Relief scheme by opening it to distillers and tax all alcohol, at the same rate per unit.
“The last 2 would allow the Chancellor to meet his own aims of delivering a fairer taxation system by levelling the playing field.”