The growing popularity of Seedlip helped Waitrose record stronger January sales than it saw in 2018. Spirits buyer John Vine told DRN: “Seedlip is doing phenomenally well for us and we had a really good January for spirits this year because of it. We are now looking at listing other alcohol- free spirits.”

Vine said sales increased 8.5% across spirits for January 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, driven by demand for the alcohol-free spirit.

He added: “I was really impressed when I tried an alcohol- free cocktail called a No Negroni using Seedlip Spice. The quality was fantastic and it was perfect for me for a night out when I didn’t want to drink too much.

“If people aren’t drinking alcohol I do wrangle with the question of whether they should have to spend £10 on a good- quality non-alcoholic cocktail in the on-trade.

Alcohol-free is putting pressure on our shelf space but it is a sign that times are changing and we have to evolve with it. We are looking at how we can give up more space to non-alcoholic beers and spirits.

“The trend is there and you either embrace it or you lose out. And this is where we have to start embracing the challenges this brings. It’s all about adding to people’s repertoires with a variety of drinks.

“But, as with all the drinks we try out for our shelves, alcohol or not, it still has to perform well.”

Vine reports continued strong growth from various sectors of premium spirits, including gin and a growing interest in rum. The latter is up by 12.5% year on year.

He added: “We brought in some higher-level rums to help people trade up. It’s helping to bring in more interest and I feel we have a more curated range at the moment in Waitrose.

“We have stripped right back on our white rum because this is the sector that has been really in decline, apart from J Wray & Nephew, which is a premium product. By reducing the amount of white rum we have been able to focus more on flavoured and premium.”

Waitrose is also considering another drinks festival as a result of the success of its annual November event.

The consumer event runs from a Friday evening until Sunday, attracting 4,000 Waitrose customers.

Vine said: “It’s a great way of getting these customers in front of wine and spirits producers via tastings and masterclasses.

“The easiest way of showing our range is to get liquid on lips. We want it to be educational and we highlight NPD and products from smaller producers. We have done this for three years now and it is really tiring but the feedback from customers is great.

“We have talked about running a spring and a winter one, but one of the hardest things is the venue, along with resource and investment, but it is something we would like to do more of.”