Flavoured gin sales increased 125% year-on-year in the week to March 21 as shoppers stocked up for the coronavirus lockdown.

The off-trade BWS category enjoyed a massive surge during that week after the government ordered all bars, pubs and restaurants to close their doors. Nielsen has revealed that sales of flavoured vodka and flavoured and spiced rum doubled during the week, while flavoured gin was the star performer with 125% growth.

The only sub-category that did not grow year-on-year was Champagne, as shoppers have little to celebrate right now. Still wine recorded the strongest total off-trade growth, followed by spirits and then beer (+55%), sparkling wine (+44%) and cider (+41%).

“In the latest data [week to March 21] we have seen the highest spike in the total off trade so far since the first reported case of COVID-19,” said Nielsen senior commercial business partner and DRN columnist Gemma Cooper. “This was driven by further stockpiling as the UK government made announcements on the on trade on Friday, March 20.

“Flavoured was the big winner in the week, with flavoured gin, flavoured vodka and flavoured and spiced rum all doubling their sales.”

The take-home market was treading water up until the coronavirus lockdown began. Total off-trade sales were flat year-on-year during the final week of January and the first week of February. They increased 2% in the week to February 15, they were flat again the following week and they decreased 1% in the week to February 29.

However, the off-trade started to gain momentum in March. Sales grew 3% in the week to March 7 compared to the same period in 2019. They grew 9% in the week to March 14, and then shot up into the stratosphere for the week to March 21.

It means that total off-trade sales are now up 9% during the seven weeks to March 21, which Nielsen classes as the COVID-19 period to date. Multiple grocers have grown BWS sales by 10% year-on-year in that time, leaving them slightly ahead of c-stores and other retailers.

Spirits and wine have both grown 10% year in that seven-week period, while beer is up 8%, sparkling wine is up 7% and cider has grown 1%. Champagne sales are down 1%.