Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages (FABs) were the only alcoholic drinks category to grow sales in the grocery channel during the 12 weeks to the end of October.

The latest figures from Kantar show that FAB sales grew 11.7% to just over £60m, compared to the same period a year prior. Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said growth is being driven by hard seltzers. 

Overall BWS sales fell 6.1% to £3.5bn in the 12-weeks to 31 October. McKevitt said the numbers were “in line with what we would expect” given that the on-trade was closed or restricted during the same period in 2020.   

Cider and wine saw the steepest declines in the three months, with sales down 9.7% and 9% respectively.

Sparkling wine bucked the trend, with near-flat sales at -0.5%. McKevitt said there is “pent up demand for celebration” among consumers, also pointing out that Christmas preparation has started earlier.

“With Christmas ads out earlier than ever and Christmas stock on the shelves, we’re keen to prepare early this year so we can dive head first into festivities,” he added. “4.7 million households bought mince pies this month. Customers are also getting ahead on shopping for the big day itself. Frozen poultry sales are 27% higher year on year, with people spending an additional £6.1 million in the latest four weeks. 1.6 million households bought their Christmas pudding this month as well, 400,000 more than last year.”   

He also said that with recent fuel shortages and recent memories of toilet roll and tinned tomatoes shortages, shoppers are “not taking any chances” when it comes preparing for Christmas.

Speaking about broader shopping trends, McKevitt said shopping habits are beginning to settle at a new baseline as consumers have adapted their lifestyles through the pandemic.

“The general trend towards bigger, less frequent trips to the supermarket seems set to stay,” he said. “Households visited the supermarket 15.7 times in the past month on average. That’s a slight increase from the 15.3 trips we saw at this time in 2020, but consumers are still making 40 million fewer trips per month than they were in 2019. At this rate of change, it would take three years to get back to our old shopping patterns.

“Online sales have also levelled out. For the second month in a row, digital sales accounted for 12.4% of the total grocery market. A fifth of households consistently order groceries online each month, becoming long term converts.”