BWS sales decreased 0.1% over the four-week Christmas trading period as consumers switched to alcohol-free alternatives and soft drinks, according to Nielsen till data.

It reported that the no and low-alcohol beer and cider category enjoyed impressive 24% growth during the four weeks to December 28, 2019.

Soft drinks was one of the best performing grocery categories, with sales up 2.4% year-on-year. Cola was the star of the show as it grew 6.2% to reach £125 million in sales during the four-week period.

Overall UK supermarkets experienced the lowest sales growth over the Christmas period in five years, with sales growing by just 0.5% in the last four weeks. 

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “It is unsurprising that sales have remained relatively low over the December period, given that momentum continued to slow in the run up to Christmas this year.

“This has given us the lowest Christmas sales growth since 2014, with shoppers choosing to visit stores more frequently, but spending less.

“Despite the festive season, consumers are evidently remaining cautious by taking advantage of greater price competition and special offers. It’s possible that shoppers have also turned to healthier options as sales of no and low alcohol beer, cider and lager increasing by +24% in the last four weeks, whilst total category sales in beer, wine and spirits have declined slightly by -0.1%.

“However, consumers have opted to indulge through other means – which helps to explain the uplift in sales for confectionery [which grew 2.2%] and soft drinks over the festive period.”

In the 12 weeks to December 28, Lidl grew overall sales by 12.2%, Aldi was up 7.7% – and it attributed that growth to BWS – the Co-op was up 3% and Iceland grew 1.9%. The big four grocers and Waitrose all saw decreases year-on-year, while M&S grew 0.1%, according to Nielsen till and panel data.