Sales boosting trends for spirits in 2024

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Shifting occasions: spirits category presents growth opportunities despite tough year in 2023 (Credit: Getty/5PH)
Shifting occasions: spirits category presents growth opportunities despite tough year in 2023 (Credit: Getty/5PH)

Related tags Spirits Cocktails Cga

The spirits category faced a “challenging year” in 2023 but still presents plenty of growth opportunities, according to the latest CGA by NIQ On-Premise Measurement Service.

Spirits sales across the on-trade fell by 4.6% in 2023, totalling £7,646m, compared with 1.3% growth for total on-premise drinks sales the previous year.

The category lost some trade to other categories during the 12-month period, CGA​ said, with 1.5 percentage point fall in its share of total sales, to 24.4%, in 2023.

Meanwhile, beer’s share rose 1.3 percentage points to 42.9% and soft drinks’ saw a  0.2 percentage point upswing to 14.7%.

This was in part attributed to rising costs putting discretionary spending under pressures and a rise in the number of consumers looking to reduce their alcohol intake.

CGA’s Consumer Pulse research showed a quarter (26%) of consumers have started choosing spirits neat or with mixers less often than before - nearly three times as many as the number (9%) who are buying them more.

In addition, pressure on spending also means 24% are choosing cocktails less frequently, according to CGA.

Trading up 

Despite this, premium brands out-performed against others in the category, increasing their share of spirits sales by value by 1.7 percentage points to 27.4% in 2023, while the super-premium segment rose 0.3 percentage points to 8.3%.

Standard spirits still took the majority (64.3%) of sales, though their share dipped by 2 percentage points, indicating loyal spirits consumers remain eager to trade up, according to CGA.

Of all the divisions measured in the report, cream liqueurs was the only one to achieve growth last year, with sales by value up 29.8% and accounting for 2.5% of all spirits sales, attributed by CGA to the “popularity” of short serves such as Baby Guinness.

With well over a quarter (28.9%) of all spirits sales in 2023, vodka remained the largest sub-category.

However, while vodka share of sales increased by 0.3 percentage points, total sales were down by 3.5%.

In addition, flavoured vodka sales grew 11.2%—a significantly better performance than the 5.0% drop in the non-flavoured segment.

Gin also had a tough run of sales, with a 0.9 percentage points drop in its share of spirits sales.

New opportunities 

In the reverse trend to vodka, non-flavoured gin stole 0.4 percentage points of share from flavoured varieties. 

Categories taking some of gin’s share of spirits sales in 2023 included imported whisky and Scotch (both up 0.3 percentage points) and brandy (up 0.1 percentage points).
Golden, dark and white rum also saw sales rise by 0.5 and 0.1 percentage points respectively. 

Though not all is lost for the spirits category, CGA’s Evolving High Tempo Occasion Daypart Report showed how consumers are shifting on-trade late-night visits to earlier dayparts, such as ticketed events, bottomless brunches and pub or bar crawls.

These occasions, CGA added, present new opportunities for pubs to grow trade within the spirits category.

However, an understanding where and how to cater to these consumers during these shifting occasions will be “crucial in driving spirits sales, CGA added.

CGA by NIQ senior clinet manager Matthew Meek said: "Sales for spirits in the GB on-trade have fallen behind other drinks categories versus last year, which can largely be attributed to the category skyrocketing in 2022 as the market re-established itself post-Covid, suggesting the market is normalising.

"With high tempo occasions evolving and moving to earlier dayparts, the challenge for operators and suppliers is how to best position their spirit and cocktail offering during these occasions and compete against beer, cider and wine."

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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