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Covid-19 failed to put the brakes on the UK’s distillery boom

New HMRC figures show a record number of distilleries were registered in the UK in 2020 – growing by over 100 in 12 months – for the first time.

Bold investors have chosen to take the plunge and launch new spirit businesses across the country, despite the restrictions of the pandemic and closure of the hospitality sector.

The latest data shows that the number of UK distilleries grew by 124, up 28% on 2019, doubling the number of UK distilleries in four years.

Remarkably the number of distilleries in England has almost tripled since 2016, which was the same year that the gin boom helped the number of English distilleries overtake Scotland for the first time.

England’s distillery numbers have topped 300 for the first time, with 311 registered distilleries in 2020. Scotland has increased its number of distilleries to 214, and Wales and Northern Ireland saw distillery numbers grow too.

The total number of distilleries registered in the UK in 2020 grew to over 560 (at least 563)*, up from over 440 (at least 441)* in 2019.

Despite record growth, 2020 has been the hardest year for so many of the UK’s distillers, the majority of whom are small, independently owned businesses.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association is urging the Government to back the brave army of distillers, who are taking a risk and ploughing their cash and efforts into businesses at a time of such uncertainty, and to ensure that the UK remains the world’s biggest spirit producer.

The WSTA is calling on the Chancellor to continue to nurture the distillery boom by cutting duty and extending the hospitality VAT cut, so as to include alcoholic drinks, at the upcoming Budget on 3 March.

A duty cut will offer some rare support to the UK’s spirit businesses, protect future income to the Treasury, and support a quick and sustainable recovery for the UK’s hospitality sector – in which wine and spirits supply chain businesses will play a key role.

Much of 2020 saw pubs and bars across the country operating with restrictions or shut completely as measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 were introduced.

Pubs and bars operate as the shop window for many distillers’ products and the UK’s growing number of distilleries stand ready to play a vital role in the hospitality sector’s recovery in 2021.

For this reason, the WSTA is also asking the Chancellor to extend the current VAT reduction across hospitality venues, until at least March 2022, and to broaden the scheme to include alcoholic drinks.

Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association Miles Beale said:

“It’s heart warming to find a positive story from the gloom of 2020 – and our bold and growing band of distillers have delivered once again. The record number of new distilleries opening across the UK is great news and helps provide jobs and a real boost to local economies.

“With such a difficult 2020 behind us and a daunting challenge to recover in 2021, our distillers need the support of the Chancellor at the upcoming Budget. A freeze at the last Budget certainly helped distillers to invest and grow, but we need the Chancellor to go further this time, with both a duty cut and an extension of the VAT reduction in hospitality venues, until at least March 2022 – and including alcoholic drinks.

“Distillers across the UK will play a vital role in 2021 and beyond as hospitality begins to open up again, and by showing his support for distillers at the Budget the Chancellor can also promote the hospitality industry as it rebounds from Covid-19 restrictions.”

First Growth: Champagne to bring in the New Year with a sparkle as Brits lockdown with fizz

Growth in sales over the 3 months to October is helping Champagne to bring in the New Year in style as Brits turned to something a little special to get them through 2020.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s latest market report shows that 12 week sales in shops and supermarkets of Champagne equated to 2.3 million bottles worth £63 million.

This is growth of 16% by volume and 22% by value – excellent news as we end 2020 for a category that has seen its market share slide as other sparkling wines muscle in.

The 12 week figures show that we’ve been turning to special bottles at home to add a bit of cheer to an otherwise extremely difficult year, with the WSTA predicting we will do so even more over the New Year period.

12 month figures for supermarket-bought Champagne aren’t so rosy – with 11.7 million bottles sold, down 3% on last year, worth around £300 million.

In pubs, bars and restaurants, 2.6 million bottles worth £118 million were sold over the last 12 months – reductions of around 40% on the year before.

This large reduction, the WSTA says, is in line with other categories in the on-trade that have seen similar declines in sales – consumer confidence has taken a pounding and venues have been ravaged by restrictions and repeated closures as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The total market for Champagne over the last 12 months equates to 14.3 million bottles worth £418 million.

In 2016 over 23 million bottles of Champagne were sold in the UK worth £753 million, but this year, the category is worth over £300 million less, due in part to the collapse of sales in on-trade venues.

But the surge in popularity in the last half of 2020 means it’s not just Champagne feeling the benefits of us enjoying more fizz when we drink at home – overall, the sparkling wine category sold an additional 27 million bottles worth £207 million in the last 12 weeks – growth of 19% by both volume and value.

Despite losses of around 40% in pubs, bars and restaurants, total sales over 12 months for sparkling wine equated to 135 million bottles worth £1.3 billion.

These numbers are larger than 3 years ago, when sparkling wines sold the equivalent of 127 million bottles worth £1.2 billion – without any restrictions placed on hospitality as a result of Covid-19.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:

“2020 has been an incredibly difficult year, so it’s great that we can end on a positive note that Champagne sales, after years of decline, are starting to pick up.

“And why not? There is no better way to celebrate than with a bottle of fizz and our numbers show that, even with everything that has gone on this year, many of us are still looking to celebrate or bring a little extra sparkle with a bottle of bubbly. Many will consider it a little luxury for a festive period when we are having to celebrate at home.

“We know that British consumers are becoming more and more adventurous when it comes to exploring the sparkling wine market, and it’s not just Champagne they are turning to – growth in sales of other sparkling wines, like Cava, Prosecco and Crémant are seen in our numbers too. Plus, of course, there are an increasing array of award-winning English sparkling wines to see off 2020.

As we look to 2021, we hope to see the government’s review of alcohol duty correct the indefensible. UK sparkling wine consumers pay more tax on this tipple than any other alcoholic drink and 30% more than on still wine. Removing that would be a new year’s resolution we could all cheer!”

Andrew Hawes, Chairman of Champagne Agents Association and M.D of Mentzendorff (agents for Bollinger Champagne) said:

“2020 ends on a high-note for Champagne, sales which bounced back rapidly following the initial impact of Covid in April, by the summer the market was in growth and August saw record sales boosted by staycations and a re-opened On-Trade.

Value has grown faster than volume with established brands performing best, demonstrating the role of Champagne as one of life’s accessible luxuries. The performance of the category over the past 12 weeks in the Off-Trade has been little short of extraordinary; indeed had the On-Trade in our Cities not been forced to close again we would have seen the decline in this sector reduced significantly.”

Simon Cairns, head of drinks at Co-op said:

“Champagne sales have been bubbling over this year as shoppers have been choosing more premium bottles of wine to make the most of more at-home drinking occasions. Sales at Co-op of Champagne have doubled over this Christmas period as food and drink plays a big part in making this time of the year be as special as it can be.”

Growth in fortified wine sales during lockdown gives hope that Christmas traditions are alive and well

Fortified wines enjoyed their best off-trade sales quarter for over 5 years, leading to optimism that this Christmas could see further growth for perhaps the most traditional of yuletide drinks.

Latest numbers from the WSTA’s Market Report show that over the 12 weeks to 3rd October 2020 around 8 million bottles of fortified wines like port and sherry were sold in shops and supermarkets, worth £56 million.

Sales of these Christmas favourites grew by 9% in volume terms and increased 14% in value, leading to the WSTA to declare that the category is alive and well after years of decline, and is poised to have an even stronger festive season.

A sherry aperitif or a glass of port with cheese are traditions enjoyed by the Brits dating back centuries, and a sales slump over recent years has been reversed as we look to traditional comforts during this most difficult of years.

With this growth occurring in the late Summer and into the Autumn, and the festive season still to come, the WSTA is predicting a bumper year for fortified wines.

Much of 2020 has been spent with onerous restrictions on the hospitality industry, and over the last 12 months, sales of fortified wines in pubs, bars and restaurants equated to around 429,000 bottles, worth £18 million.

Whilst these on-trade numbers are 42% down in volume terms and 39% down in value terms on the previous 12 months, and include the traditionally strong festive trading period for 2019, the figures are in line with other categories that have seen sales drop by around 40% in on-trade venues.

The WSTA has attributed this sales decline to the slow strangulation of the hospitality sector, with consumer confidence low and venues repeatedly forced to close as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Despite struggling on-trade sales, fortified wines enjoyed overall growth, with the entire category over the last 12 months equating to 40.4 million bottles worth £303 million.

This compares with 39 million bottles worth £270 million in 2019, and is the best performance for ports and sherries for 5 years.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:

“In such a difficult year, the news that we have been enjoying more ports and sherries at home recently to arrest slow stagnation in the category is welcome. It’s a boost – just in time for Christmas.

“During lockdown, and into the summer months when there were still restrictions on hospitality businesses, consumers turned to trusted, traditional favourites and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in the sales data for fortified wines.

“Fortified wines can often be overlooked, but they are incredibly versatile. They come in many forms and are used in a variety of cocktails, and can also be savoured on their own. The trend is positive for these Christmas classics, and it’s likely that the category will continue to benefit as we approach the most popular time for sherries and ports. Santa loves his sherry, and in 2020 many consumers will also be rekindling their festive love affairs with fortifieds!”

Gin proves to be the tonic for a turbulent 2020

The latest WSTA market report reveals that combined sales of gin and flavoured gin in shops, supermarkets and online went up 22% in value, breaking the billion-pound mark for the first time, worth £1.2 billion totalling 75 million bottles.

Brits bought over ten million extra bottles of gin from UK retailers during 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

A large chunk of the bottles sold were flavoured gin which has seen a real surge of popularity since category came on to the scene a few years ago.

In total UK retailers sold around 48 million bottles of traditional predominately juniper tasting gin worth £716 million in the 12 months to the beginning of October 2020. A 10% increase on last year.

For flavoured gin 27 million bottles flew off the shelves, worth £456 million, up a sparkling 31% on last year.

Off-trade sales of gin have more than doubled in the last five years, in 2015 just 29 million bottles of gin were sold worth £375 million.

The increase in sales comes after the Covid-19 lockdown closed the hospitality sector and saw more people buying alcohol to enjoy at home.

With people prevented from socialising in pubs and restaurants off trade sales of alcohol took up some of the slack, however total alcohol sales during 2020 went down.

The loss of the gin sales in pubs means that there has been a dip in total gins sales in the UK. In the 12 months to October 2020 Brits spent £2.2 billion on gin compared to £2.6 billion during the same period in 2019.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: 

“Gin has proven to be a real tonic for shoppers wanting to enjoy a bit of down time at home during a turbulent 2020.

It’s fantastic to hear that some distillers will have benefited from a boost in retail sales, but we have to look at the bigger picture which shows overall gin sales are down by £400 million following the hit taken by the hospitality sector due to the pandemic this year. There has been a huge amount of investment poured into the world renowned great British spirit industry in recent years – and we would hate to see jobs created by the gin boom take a hit.

British spirit makers, many of whom are SMEs, need greater support from Government to continue to grow and recover from the loss of hospitality sales. That is why, as a first and easy step, we are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty and boost British business at the spring Budget.”

Rob Curteis, Group Marketing Director for Quintessential Brands, said:

“Whilst the year has seen huge disruption to our lives, the enduring popularity of gin amongst consumers in the UK has remained constant throughout the pandemic, resulting in booming gin sales throughout the year, which has been welcome news for retailers. The level of shoppers’ trust in the gin category is evident from the increase in sales of classic London Dry Gins, such as Greenall’s, as well from the continued growth of flavoured gins with new flavours – such as BLOOM Passionfruit & Vanilla Blossom and Greenall’s Blood Orange & Fig – performing incredibly strongly as consumers looked to recreate the cocktail experience at home.

“It’s been a really tough year for everyone – as people, we’re social by our very nature, so being stuck at home for so much of the year has been really difficult, but with the vaccine roll-out gathering pace, there’s reason to be optimistic. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can come together again properly in the hospitality venues that are such an important part of British life and we hope that gin will be the drink of choice for many when this finally happens.”

Tom Warner, founder of Warner’s Distillery, said:

“It’s fantastic to see the phenomenal growth coming from the off-trade in 2020, and the fact that consumer demand for gin remains incredibly positive.  As a leading super premium UK gin producer, we’re also delighted to see the continued buoyancy in the flavoured segment, and we expect that growth to continue into 2021.  Having said that, as an independent, family-owned distillery, we’re clearly feeling the fact that this retail upside comes nowhere near covering the downside from a ham-strung on-trade, and the tremendous negative impact of COVID on the hospitality sector has been unprecedented so we’re hoping that our on-premise partners will be back fully open as early as possible in 2021 to get back on their feet and take full advantage of this growing consumer demand and pent up desire to step outside.”

The growth in gin sales began to emerge in 2013 when British consumers started to show renewed interest in the juniper-based spirit.

Over the next three years sales continued to grow at a steady pace enticing entrepreneurs to invest in artisanal brands leading to an explosion in new distilleries springing up across the country.

In 2013 there were 152 distilleries in the UK, 96 of those were in Scotland. Fast forward to latest numbers from 2019 and there are now over 441 distilleries – and astonishingly it’s England which now boasts the largest number distilleries, although Scotland still has some of the largest.

The interest in British gin, which has been dubbed the ‘ginaissance’, has helped to fund new forays into spirit-making, with high-quality English and Welsh whisky and rums coming onto the market in recent years.

WSTA figures reveal the drink of lockdown

The WSTA has crowned rum the ‘drink of lockdown’, as their latest figures show that rum enjoyed the biggest growth across all spirits during lockdown.

In the 3 months from April to June 2020, 38% more rum was sold than in the same period in 2019, equating to an extra 1.3 million bottles sold.

Total rum sales were worth £119 million in the quarter alone.

Over the last 12 months rum has enjoyed 8% volume gains and is now worth £430 million, placing it behind only whiskies, vodkas and gins in value terms.

The biggest growth was found in the flavoured & spiced rum category, which between April and June grew 53% by volume to make up 3.4 million bottles of the overall category.

The popularity of flavoured & spiced rums during lockdown saw the variety outsell white rums over a 3-month period for the first time.

The strong performance of rum, as well as gin, shows that consumers looked to indulge their love of cocktails and explore new flavours during the Spring even though pubs and bars couldn’t open.

Despite off-trade growth in gin slowing over recent months, this trend was reversed during lockdown with 22% volume gains and 27% increases in sales by value.

Including flavoured gins, total gin sales over the last 12 months total £1.1 billion, growth of 15% over the last 12 months.

With pubs, bars and restaurants closed it was inevitable that off-trade sales would increase – in volume terms, total alcohol sales in supermarkets and shops are up 8% over 12 months and 35% over the lockdown period.

The WSTA’s figures show, however, that the growth in off-trade sales did not off-set the losses seen by the closure of the on-trade – total alcohol sales slumped 20% by volume, showing that the suggestion that Brits boozed their way through lockdown isn’t reflected in the data.

A boom in distillery numbers in recent years has gone hand in hand with an increasingly experimental British public, but distillers often rely on consumers trying their product in a pub or bar before heading out to source a bottle for themselves at home.

At a time when further restrictions are placed on pubs, bars and restaurants as part of further Covid-19 measures, the WSTA is highlighting that these venues act as the ‘shop window’ for Britain’s SME distillers.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: 

“Our latest numbers show that rum is lockdown’s champion, as the experimentation Brits liked to enjoy in pubs and bars carried over to their homes. However, this also underlines the importance of on-trade venues as the shop window for new innovations in the spirits category.

“With news just last week of further restrictions being placed on the hospitality sector, the climate for our distillers, many of whom are SMEs and have come to represent such a great British success story of recent years, continues to get tougher.

“Last week, we welcomed the fact that hospitality venues forced to close in this latest round of measures will receive financial support and that retail will remain open under all scenarios, but we continue to express our serious concerns that – once again – those who supply the hospitality sector are being overlooked. They need access to the same levels of support and this includes our world-beating great British distillers.”

UK toasts record gin sales in 2019 ahead of World Gin Day

Last year saw over 83 million bottles of gin sold in the UK worth around £2.6 billion, with gin sales almost doubling in value in just two years.

And despite the ongoing lockdown, Brits still can’t get enough gin – the latest reports show that gin is the best-selling spirit for online shoppers since March.

The WSTA’s latest insights suggest we will be well-stocked to raise a toast on World Gin day this Saturday.

On this day of celebration, the WSTA has chosen to look back at how sales of the quintessentially British spirit have evolved.

The growth in gin sales began to emerge in 2013 when British consumers started to show renewed interest in the juniper-based spirit.

Over the next three years sales continued to grow at a steady pace enticing entrepreneurs to invest in artisanal brands leading to an explosion in new distilleries springing up across the country.

In 2013 there were 152 distilleries in the UK, 96 of those were in Scotland. Fast forward to latest numbers from 2019 and there are at least 441 distilleries – and astonishingly it’s England which now boasts the largest number distilleries, although Scotland still has some of the largest.

By 2016 gin was experiencing double-digit growth in both volume and value sales, with 2018 seeing a peak growth period where volume sales were up 42% and value sales a staggering 50%.

Last year, gin sales continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace, as drinkers spread their experimental wings and tried an even greater array of spirits and cocktails, thanks in large part to continued innovation from our great British distillers, who’ve given consumers a wider spirit choice than ever before.

The interest in British gin, which has been dubbed the ‘ginaissance’, has helped to fund new forays into spirit-making, with high-quality English and Welsh whisky and rums coming onto the market in recent years.

According to latest HMRC figures, we exported £672 million worth British gin in 2019, taking total gin sales, at home and abroad, to over £3.2 billion.

When it is time to reflect on gin sales in 2020 it will be interesting to see how the category has fared after UK pubs, bars and restaurants were forced to shut overnight following the Coronavirus pandemic.

What is clear, however, is that lockdown hasn’t dulled our enthusiasm for this most British of spirits – a CGA snap survey at the end of March revealed that gin was the most popular spirit being bought online, and behind only wine and beer as our most popular digitally-secured tipple.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:

“Gin sales continued to grow throughout 2019 despite a number of predictions that the bubble will have to burst soon.

“We knew that growth in the gin category would slow eventually, it was always inevitable given the incredible numbers we were seeing from 2016 onwards. We remain optimistic that British gin will continue to create a stir at home and abroad as our innovative distillers continue to produce new colours, creations and botanical masterpieces.

“Online demand for gin has outstripped all others in the spirit category during the lockdown of the last few months, and provided that SMEs can survive the ongoing economic uncertainty wrought by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that gin’s success  can be maintained at home and replicated abroad as our distillers look to export.

“British spirits are world renowned. Provided our SMEs can survive the current economic uncertainty there is potential – and significant motivation – to build UK spirits exports. But, this will need the right Government support, especially for SME distillers. We believe British gin exports could be a tonic for British SMEs post-pandemic recovery.”

Britain saw the largest boom in distillery openings on record in 2019

New HMRC figures show the number of distilleries registered in 2019 shot up to at least 441 as the UK boosted its distillery numbers by at least 80 last year.

The record number of distillery openings saw an increase of 22%, from 361 in 2018.

England now boasts 228 distilleries, adding at least another 62 to its total. Scotland has increased its number of distilleries by 26, taking their total up to 186 distilleries.

In 2018 the number of distilleries in England overtook those in Scotland for the first time with the latest figures showing that English spirit makers continue to dominate the UK spirits map.

For centuries Scotland had dominated the spirit making world thanks to the popularity and rich history of Scotch Whisky.

However, the gin boom has helped the total number of UK distilleries to more than double in the last five years, from 184 to at least 441.

In England during that time the number of distilleries has more than tripled, rocketing from just 66 distilleries in 2014 to the 228 in operation today. Since 2010 English distilleries have gone up tenfold when there were just 23 distilleries.

The “ginaissance” has meant gin sales in the UK have hit an all-time high helping to fund new forays into spirit making, such as English and Welsh whisky and rums.

The WSTA’s end of year market report showed a massive boost in gin sales last year with over 82 million bottles sold in the UK , worth over £2.6 billion.

According to HMRC we exported £672 million worth British gin in 2019, taking total sales of the juniper-based spirit at home and abroad to over £3.2 billion.

Scotland still boasts some of the largest distilleries in the UK, however, an increasing number of smaller distilleries have emerged across England.

Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association Miles Beale said:

“It’s brilliant to see the number of British distilleries grow up and down the country, year on year, providing jobs and boosting the local economies.

A freeze at the last Budget has certainly helped our innovative British distillers to invest and boost exports. We are therefore asking the Chancellor to take the time to consider what a cut will do to boost both British Business and his revenue coffers.

It is proven from the Government’s own statistics that cutting or freezing duty brings more money to the Treasury. On March the 11th we are calling on the Chancellor to cut spirit duty by 2% and deliver a win for British business, a win for British consumers and a windfall for the Treasury.”

The latest HMRC figures do not reveal the total number of distillery openings in Wales and Northern Ireland as the applicants were fewer than 5 and the actual number has been withheld by officials to protect the confidentiality of HMRC’s customers.

With a month to go until #Budget2020, WSTA uses British Gin success as rallying cry

The latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that British gin sales abroad, in 2019, were worth £672 million – up 9% on the previous year.

Total sales of gin at home and abroad are now worth over £3.2 billion, with the WSTA using the figures to mark one month until the 2020 Budget, as they urge the Chancellor to support British spiritmakers so that they can prosper both at home and abroad.

In 2016 export sales of the juniper-based spirit broke the half a billion-pound mark for the first time and since then the popularity of British gin has seen sales continue to soar.

Thanks to the growing interest in British gin, which has been dubbed the ‘ginaissance’, UK gin exports are worth more than double the sales in 2010, which reached just over £288 million.

Britain sends more gin around the world than it does beef, wheat or beer, with gin sales worth 14% more than sales of British beer overseas – sales of British beer totalling £590 million abroad in 2019.

The WSTA is calling on Government to support British gin exporters and encourage them to capitalise on the thirst for all things ‘Brand Britain’ in established and emerging markets.

WSTA Chief Executive, Miles Beale, said:

“We now have year-end figures for the UK’s trade in 2019, and, just as was the case at the end of 2018, gin has ended on a high. It was not long ago that sales of gin at home and abroad broke the £3 billion barrier and the category continues to go from strength to strength. If freezing duty supports this sort of growth, imagine what a cut could do?

“These numbers tell us three things – first, that neither Brits, nor those overseas, can get enough of British gin.

“Second, these numbers tell us something else important – 47% of our gin exports go to the EU. As British spiritmakers gear up to tackle new export markets, it will be important to maintain the booming trade in British gin – linking British supply and European demand, and vice-versa – through the transition period on 31st December 2020.

“Finally, British spiritmakers, many of whom are SMEs, need greater support from Government to continue to grow and to export sooner and further afield. That is why, as a first and easy step, we are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty by 2% at the Budget, which is exactly one month away on 11th March.”

WSTA calls on the Chancellor to start the year on a high by cutting wine and spirit duty

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association is calling on the new Government to cut alcohol duty as consumers face coughing up some of the highest prices in Europe for their festive tipples.

Brits will be shocked to know the true reality of the tax on their shopping. For every bottle of average priced spirit (at 40% ABV) purchased a whopping 73%, £8.05, goes straight to the Treasury. For an average priced bottle of still wine 55%, £2.23, goes directly to the taxman – sparkling wine duty is even higher at £2.77.

This Christmas 49% of a typical festive booze shop will go on tax with the Treasury taking a huge cut out of the UK’s Christmas spirit.

Wine is the UK’s most popular drink, enjoyed by 33 million Brits, but as a result of the Chancellor’s decision to single out wine for a duty increase at the last Budget, income from wine receipts actually decreased from last year’s take.

The HMRC Alcohol Bulletin figures released last month show that wine duty receipts for the last six months are down 2.1% on last year. If the 2.1% drop plays out for the whole year then Treasury would be set to lose £92 million compared to 2018.

For beer and spirits, both of which received a duty freeze, the revenue income was more positive with beer up 2.4% and spirits up 1.7%.

Further proof that raising alcohol duty is not only bad for business, bad for consumers but also bad news for the Treasury.

£96.81 of the alcohol spend during our Christmas shop will go to the taxman, courtesy of VAT and the increasingly excessive duty rates in the UK.

Last year consumers paid £92.95 for the average household’s festive alcohol shop, which this year has gone up almost £4 per household, despite a freeze on beer and spirit duty.

These calculations are based on a typical festive season shop, consisting of 5 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of Champagne, 2 bottles of sparkling wine, 3 bottles of spirits, 2 bottles of port, 24 cans of beer and 12 ciders. If consumers chose average priced bottles or cans in this shop it would set a UK family back £199.57.

The French have much more to celebrate this festive season as their shop is over £40 cheaper, and will pay just £32.46 in tax, meaning only 21% of the cost goes to the taxman.

The UK alcohol industry is one of the most heavily taxed in Europe, with British drinkers paying an extraordinary 69% of all wine duties collected by all 28 EU member states and 25% of all spirits duties. This is by far the most of any member state despite accounting for only 11 per cent of the total EU population.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:

“Comparing the wine and spirit tax regime in the UK to that in France puts the UK’s excessively high rate of excise duty firmly in the spotlight. The Treasury will be taking more money than ever from British businesses and consumers this Christmas while our French cousins’ booze bill will be much more palatable.

“The latest Government figures clearly show that increasing duty is not only bad for business and consumers but is bad for the public purse too. By delivering a freeze to beer and spirits at the last Budget the Treasury landed a bumper tax windfall. In contrast after a rise to wine duty the Treasury lost revenue. We are calling on the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, to support British consumers, pubs and the wider hospitality trade by cutting alcohol duty.”

The wine and spirit industry plays a hugely important role in the UK’s economy, supporting some 369,000 jobs and generating £49 billion in economic activity.

Sales of rum continue to rise

Sales of rum continue to rise, with almost 35 million bottles sold worth just over £1 billion in 2018.

Total UK spirit sales last year were worth just over £11 billion, with rum the standout performer alongside gin, as Brits’ thirst for new and exciting craft spirits shows no sign of slowing down.

Whilst white rum is still the most popular rum in the off-trade, sales of flavoured and spiced rums are growing fast, with almost 10 million bottles sold in the last 12 months – just over half a million bottles fewer than white rum.

The WSTA’s last Market Report also shows that both the white rum and flavoured & spiced rum categories were worth £137 million over 2018.

The WSTA is predicting that by the end of 2019, flavoured and spiced rums will knock white rum off top-spot as the most popular type of rum for shoppers picking up their tipple in shops, supermarkets and off-licenses.

Sales of golden and dark rum in pubs, bars and restaurants were also up, with golden rum the most popular choice for drinkers – sales of golden rum were worth £374 million, an increase of 7% on last year.

The latest increase in sales attests to the growing appetite in the UK for rum and the increasing number of brands on the market. In 2006, there were around 50 rum brands on the UK market, but now that number is approaching 200, underlining that UK drinkers’ desire to experiment new and different brands is not confined only to experimenting with gin.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:

“It’s been another great year for rum sales in the UK. British drinkers have more choice than ever before when it comes to rum. Craft spirits are ‘of the moment’, and an increasing number of artisanal spirits producers are crafting their own interpretations of the spirit- often alongside their gin range.

“The decision by the Chancellor last Autumn to freeze spirit duty was the right one, and further supportive action is vital in 2019 to ensure that the craft spirits boom can continue, and British drinkers can continue to enjoy experimenting with their drinks choices.”

Dan Buckland, Co-founder, Drum & Black Rum Co. adds:

“Consumers are becoming more adventurous with their beverage choices, and the more exploration they do, the more knowledgeable they become. They’re seeking brands that define them as individuals, and the craft rum movement in the UK is showing more people that rum has the potential as the drink of choice.

“Until now, spiced rums have been associated with lower quality mixing spirits. However, if crafted as a premium sipping rum with an innovative flavour profile, spiced rum can become an accessible alternative for spirit drinkers with more refined tastes as well as a new, exciting luxury drink for those exploring the rum world.

“Whilst Drum & Black and a small number of British rums are actually distilled on home soil, we will see that most new brands rely on bulk imports. I am looking forward to seeing more distilleries open here in the UK. As with the gin movement, this is when we will start to see real creativity in the craft of new British brands.”