Gin sales are booming in the UK off-trade as shoppers seek out premium, boutique and unusual gins, an OLN survey has revealed.

The category is consistently showing strong growth, up 6% in value to £360 million in the UK off-trade (Nielsen, year to October 2014).

OLN polled more than 100 retailers about sales and 76% said their gin sales had grown in the past year, while 80% had seen a trend in their customers looking for more expensive, small-batch gins.

The figures were revealed at Think Gin, an all-day event for gin professionals run this week by Off Licence News and sister magazine Drinks International.

Across the on and off-trade, premium gin sales have grown 49% and now make up 28% of the overall gin market.

Nicholas Cook, director general of the Gin Guild, said: “A thirst is clearly growing for premium gin, but that interest and buzz is also creating greater interest for the spirit as a whole, not just premium brands. There is consumer interest in good serves of gin at all levels, both at home and as something to be expected as the norm from the quality on-trade.”

Retailers including Harrods, Hedonism Wines, Gerry’s of Soho, The Good Spirits Company in Glasgow, Selfridges and Waitrose took part in the

Think Gin debate alongside Alex Wrethman, owner of Charlotte’s Group and Gin School, Tim Dunlop of regional wholesaler Hammonds of Knutsford, and Emma Stokes of the Gin Monkey blog.

Waitrose wines, beers and spirits category manager Anne Jones, who co-chaired the debate, said: “We over-trade in gin and it’s quite a mature category for us, but we are seeing it grow. It’s been exciting for years in the on-trade, but it’s taken a while in the off-trade and we are still just getting there.”

OLN’s poll found that spirits, and particularly premium spirits, are growing strongly in independents, supermarkets and off-licence chains.

Convenience was the only sector that wasn’t enjoying the gin renaissance – just 32% of those polled said their sales had grown in the past year, and the same proportion had seen a rise in interest in more premium and unusual gins.

Jones said there was potential for gin in c-stores, but working out how to approach the market was a challenge. By law most convenience stores have to put their spirits behind the counter, so shoppers can’t browse the aisles looking at the range of brands on offer.

“It becomes more like a bar call, with people asking for brands they know well,” she added.