Nielsen insight: review of the summer

Back in January, I decided I was going to make summer 2018 a stay-cation so I could make the most of all the amazing places and sights we have here in the UK. I gambled with the British weather and it paid off. This summer was the UK’s joint hottest on record, with temperatures consistently hitting 30°C from the end of June to the middle of August, bringing an uplift in off-trade BWS sales.

Between June and August shoppers spent £282 million more on alcohol in the off-trade, a rise of 7.3%, and bought 5.5% more units of alcohol. 

So what tipples topped the leaderboard? Beer drove 48% of the overall off-trade value growth. If there’s a football tournament, we expect to see an increase in beer sales until the point where the home nations are knocked out. 

One could argue the £134.7 million value growth seen in beer could be a result of comparing it to 2017’s less eventful summer of sport and one cooler than the summer of 2018. 

If we look at individual weekly sales, nine of the 12 weeks over June-August were in value growth compared to summer 2017, showing the impact heat had on the category, with the fastest growing weeks for beer sales being the final three weeks of the World Cup. This goes to show the power a sporting tournament and hot weather can have on a category’s sales. Average weekly sales for beer through the summer were £95.7 million, up from £83.4 million a week in 2017.

World beers stole the show with growth of 30% (£68 million) as temperatures soared and World Cup fever hit. Shoppers’ thirst for world beer grew as they purchased more often, and in bigger quantities, which in turn drove value. 

A 31% slice of off-trade growth came from the spirits category, growing £87.8 million (9.8%) as shoppers traded up to more expensive offerings. Gin, as we could’ve predicted, contributed a whopping 94% of the spirits growth, gaining £82.5 million through summer 2018, with £2 in every £10 spent on spirits going on gin.

In July I wrote about the rise of flavoured gin and this was one of the key contributors to gin’s success this summer. With the influx of offerings in the off-trade, we saw more new households buying into gin this summer. Some of these gains were from people moving away from other spirits but 85% of gin success is incremental, as regular gin shoppers spent more and bought more, and new households entered spirits through gin. 

Two tipples which always do well in summer are wine and pre-mixed cans. Sales of rosé grew through the summer but only due to price increases, whereas both volume and units declined. White wine was the winner with an increase of £20.9 million, as shoppers looked to treat themselves with higher-priced offerings in white. Pre-mixed cans definitely benefited from barbecues and picnics. The format enjoyed an increase of £13.5 million, with gin-based mixes proving increasingly popular among consumers.  

With temperatures dropping and Christmas decorations appearing, summer is starting to feel like a distant memory. But the top performers – gin and world beer – will continue on their high and play through into off-trade Christmas shopping baskets.

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