The national and local restrictions across 2020 drove the beer category up +45% in Q2 and +19.6% in Q3 (Nielsen).

This growth was mainly driven by a change in the way consumers drank beer as they moved to lower tempo, everyday consumption moments at-home partly due to the closure of the on-trade, as well as increased involvement of beer in the at-home meal occasion.

“It’s important retailers understand these changes in consumer behaviours to help them to drive incremental sales,” says Neil Baker, Head of Category Management at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I. “For example, looking to stock beers next to crisps and dips to encourage extra spend in shoppers’ baskets. We believe these new in-home consumption habits will continue to be relevant to the off-trade in 2021.”

Beyond this, reducing plastic waste remains high on the agenda for shoppers. Eighty-two per cent feel it is important to reduce the UK’s plastic consumption and 27% said they feel guilty when buying single-use plastic products (Opinion Matters). Excess packaging remains a concern for consumers wanting to reduce their environmental impact (Kantar). In response to this, Budweiser Brewing Group has removed plastic rings across its beer portfolio, eliminating 250 tonnes of plastic every year.

Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Corona are strong performers for Budweiser Brewing Group within the premium space. All three recorded growth in volume and value by double digits over the course of the initial lockdown (Nielsen). Stella Artois and Budweiser are the number one and number two most valuable beer brands in the off-trade with over 821m pints sold so far, while Corona grew at nearly three times the rate of the total category (Nielsen), maintaining its position as the most valuable world beer brand in the off-trade.

Budweiser Brewing Group’s two new alcohol-free launches, Stella Artois Alcohol-Free and Budweiser Zero, have continued their strong momentum growing by double digits vs the previous period (Nielsen).

To help retailers respond to the increased demand from consumers opting for healthier lifestyles Budweiser Brewing Group launched two new alcohol-free products last year: Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois Alcohol Free – both of which provide consumers with alcohol-free options of their favourite beers that do not compromise on taste or quality.

Budweiser Zero offers the same taste of Budweiser but with zero alcohol, zero sugar and 46 calories. It responds directly to consumers who are looking to moderate their alcohol consumption to suit their active lifestyle.

The launch of Stella Artois Alcohol-Free also allows retailers to tap into the success of a growing brand – with consumers spending an extra £19.7m on Stella Artois in 2019 (Nielsen) – while at the same time drawing upon this increased demand for alcohol-free options.

Budweiser Brewing Group’s brands brought an additional 2 million households into the beer category last year, and during the third quarter of 2020, the company’s UK business saw strong double-digit growth with volume sales up +15.7% (Nielsen).

During the initial lockdown period, two thirds of shoppers stated they were treating themselves at-home (Kantar) – a trend that fuelled the growth of premium beers in 2020. “Our portfolio of brands allowed retailers to capitalise on this shift towards premiumisation and consequently, Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona saw tremendous growth,” adds Baker. “This presents a continued opportunity for retailers to capitalise on the demand by stocking premium brands such as these.”

Alcohol is one area where consumers are choosing to splash out, with 52% of shoppers agreeing they would pay extra for quality when it comes to buying alcoholic drinks to have at home (Kantar).

“We expect this to continue next year, so retailers should ensure they have a range of premium options available,” comments Baker.

Alongside this, the closure of the on-trade inevitably impacted beer formats. As a result, the pint format saw strong performance with sales up 29.2% over the last year (Nielsen) as many shoppers looked to replicate the on-trade experience at-home in light of social distancing restrictions. This pack format represents a value opportunity for retailers, driving increased value spend from consumers looking for small packs.

The pandemic has demonstrated the need for agility among both retailers and suppliers, and the ability to adapt to fast-moving changes in behaviour and restrictions. Budweiser Brewing Group has been working closely with customers to map out stock levels, production capacity and transport capabilities based on new rhythms of shopping.

“The importance of regular, informative and clear communication across the value chain has also proven vital,” says Baker. “Thinking ahead to 2021, continuing this level of communication will ensure retailers can meet consumer demand and that shoppers can have a convenient and stress-free experience in store.”

Stella Artois launched the Life Artois campaign to invite consumers to slow down and savour life together over a chalice of Stella Artois. The campaign ran across TV and digital, helping keep the brand front of mind for consumers and opening up an opportunity for retailers to draw new shoppers into the beer category.

To coincide with the return of the Premier League, Budweiser launched its ‘Side Hustles’ campaign, a docuseries following three footballers as they build a legacy away from the pitch. Throughout the Premier League season, retailers can use POS to help drive awareness of Budweiser and the Premier League, which will in turn, increase sales ahead of matchdays as consumers associate the beer with the sport.

Budweiser Brewing Group also enabled retailers to tap into a whole new pool of consumers by launching Bud Light’s first ever beer and esports on-pack promotion in Europe. Esports is huge and has seen significant growth during lockdown – with daily average viewers up 65%. The partnership offers retailers the opportunity to engage with consumers who watch esports on a daily basis.

Kevin Fawell, Off-Trade Sales Director at Molson Coors Beverage Company, comments: “The alcohol category has remained robust throughout the pandemic, growing by 21% in value in the UK in 2020. We expect this to continue into the new year as people continue to spend more time at home, presenting a big opportunity for retailers.”

People are increasingly looking for ways to make their at-home occasions a little more special. As a result, premium brands are gaining more and more traction in the retail sector and growing ahead of the category (Nielsen).

This includes the Aspall Cyder range, which is steeped in heritage and has grown by 27% over recent weeks (Nielsen).

There’s also a growing market for more premium world lagers, which is worth more than £1.2bn in the off-trade (Nielsen). Continental-style pilsners are becoming increasingly popular, providing a more crisp and hoppy flavour than more traditional lager. Brands like Staropramen can bring new options to retailers’ lager range to give people a chance to experiment and explore new tastes.

In August Molson Coors launched Blue Moon Mango Wheat with a fruity, mango taste to appeal to Blue Moon fans and new drinkers alike.

The ready-to-drink category grew by 15% in value to £340m (Nielsen) in 2019 and has continued to perform well, with more consumers looking for exciting new flavours and more premium choices they can grab and enjoy on-the-go.

“Hard seltzers are ideally placed to tap into this, providing a premium and convenient option,” says Fawell. “While it’s still early days in Europe, we’re expecting the hard seltzer category to follow a similar pattern to the US, where sales topped more than $1.5billion in retail last year and saw growth of 215%.”

Molson Coors recently announced the launch of Three Fold, a new hard seltzer brand which taps into the growing hard seltzer opportunity in the UK and will be available in the off-trade in Spring 2021.

Named after its Three Fold characteristics – refreshment, flavour and low-calorie – it comes in three fruity variants that are clean, crisp and light in taste; Red Berries, Tropical and Citrus, all with 4% ABV. The range is naturally vegan and gluten free, containing 93 calories per 330ml can.

“We expect to see more flavour innovation across different categories, in particular those with a more premium or craft feel, adds Fawell. “Retailers should keep a close eye on any new launches and look at how these might help them to offer shoppers more variety to supplement their core range of classic favourites.”

In cider, Rekorderlig remains one of the top choices for shoppers, with more established flavours such as Strawberry & Lime continuing to be the foundation of the category. However, shoppers are becoming more adventurous and looking for flavours that are exciting and distinctive, which has seen new flavour variants enjoy strong growth.

The Rekorderlig Botanicals range appeals to the more adventurous drinker and those who are looking for a refreshing alternative to gin, helping to boost sales with flavours like Rhubarb, Lemon & Mint.

Though low and no alcohol options remain a small part of the overall beer and cider category, more and more consumers have been enjoying low alcohol variants of their favourite drinks at home – since March, retail sales in the category have increased by 30% (Nielsen).

“In recent years and months, there has been a huge increase in variety and flavour options in the category, which appeal to a much broader set of consumers,” Fawell comments. “The range available has never been better, and with so much to choose from, more and more consumers are starting to take notice.”

Molson Coors recently expanded its low and no alcohol portfolio with the launch of Doom Bar Zero, the UK’s first widely available 0.0% ABV amber ale. With the launch of Doom Bar Zero, Molson Coors now offers drinkers alcohol-free options in lager, cider and ale, catering to a host of different tastes and occasions.

Lager sales have remained robust in retail, outperforming the total alcohol sector (Nielsen). In particular, Molson Coors has seen strong performance across its core range as consumers have opted for those known and loved brands to enjoy at home – for example, Carling has been in 26% growth over recent weeks (Nielsen).

“A strong core offering remains vital, which is why we are continuing to invest in our best-loved brands to ensure they remain front of mind among consumers, such as Coors Light,” says Fawell.

Coors Light became the No. 6 lager brand in the UK in 2019 (Nielsen) and to build on this momentum Molson Coors will be rebranding Coors Light as ‘Coors’ next year, which forms part of a multimillion-pound investment in the brand.

Calli O’Brien, marketing controller at Aston Manor Cider, comments: “Health is the fastest growing motivator of choice for consumers and this extends to the alcohol category. The increase in popularity of low/no alcohol options among teepartial and teetotal drinkers is a trend that is set to continue, as more people choose to moderate their alcohol intake or upgrade from their regular soft drink.”

According to IRI research, 27% of 18 – 35-year olds say they are actively cutting down on alcohol consumption and 56% of the same age range are now consuming more low or no alcohol products.

Aston Manor has responded to the growth of no and low with the launch of its own low alcohol version (0.5%) of the vintage cider, Friels. It’s made using 100% British apples, no artificials and 100% recyclable packaging, available in 4x330ml cans.

Responding to the consumer focus on health, Aston Manor launched Sol Duc, a trio of low-calorie, alcoholic hard seltzers. Sol Duc is simply sparkling water, a dash of vodka and natural flavouring. The range is available in three flavours – Strawberry & Lime, Raspberry & Rose, and Rhubarb & Ginger (RRP £2) in 330ml (5% ABV) cans.

Perry also plays an important role with consumers that are looking for lower alcohol options. “We know that many consumers perceive perry as a lower ABV alternative to wine, therefore, we’re seeing more consumers choosing options such as our ‘new look’ Chardolini to enjoy as a relaxing drink with friends,” says O’Brien.

Jon Black, Head of Sales of Hall & Woodhouse, comments: “The ale category has had to evolve rapidly over recent years to keep up with the ever-changing consumer trends. Macro trends such as the drive for sustainability have played a part particularly where packaging development is concerned, as have more ‘BWS specific’ trends such as the increasing number of consumers looking for ‘no or low alcohol’ options as well as the growth of flavoured SKU variants across several BWS categories.”

Hall & Woodhouse’s latest NPD, launched in summer 2020, is Twice Tangled Double Hopped IPA which is brewed using Crystal and Munich malts giving subtle biscuit and lightly roasted notes with a hint of toffee, with Amarillo and Centennial hops for a grapefruit twist and lemon hop aroma. It is available in 500ml format and is nationally listed in Waitrose, Sainsburys and Ocado, with Morrisons and Tesco listing it on a regional basis across stores in the South West.

Darryl Hinksman, Head of Business Development at Westons Cider, comments: “While the Coronavirus pandemic has been an extraordinarily challenging period for retailers, and the nation as a whole, the cider category has proved remarkably resilient, with premiumisation continuing to drive growth in the off-trade – now worth £1.3bn.”

Authenticity and craft remain key requirements for these discerning cider drinkers and over the last 12 months, crafted cider has seen +44.4% growth, outpacing the +17.8% total category growth (IRI).

“In part, this has been driven by the closure of the on-trade,” adds Hinksman. “With fewer people able to visit pubs and outlets across the UK, we have seen consumers redirect some of their spend towards high quality, crafted ciders, in a bid to recreate the ‘perfect serve’ from home. Retailers would do well to weight stock in line with the consumer appetite for more premium options and drinking experiences.”

Last year, Westons expanded its brand to include three new variants: Henry Westons Vintage Rosé, Henry Westons Cloudy Vintage, and Henry Westons Organic Cider.

“Premiumisation continues to be the driving force for growth across the off-trade with half of cider drinkers saying that small price differences between premium and standard cider make it worth trading up,” says Hinksman. “However, compared to other categories – such as lager and spirits – cider has not yet seen the same level of premiumisation, signalling more room for shoppers to trade up. To make the most of this opportunity, and drive higher value sales, retailers should ensure they are maintaining supply of the bestselling, premium ranges throughout the year – such as Henry Westons.”

Chris Milton, Thatchers Cider Sales and Export Director, comments: “Cider comes into its own in Spring and Summer, with drinkers enjoying the refreshing nature of cider across many different social occasions. In today’s Covid aware environment shoppers want to be able to shop quickly, make quick decisions, yet importantly do not want to feel they are having to compromise their purchase choice. So make the choice easy by having a range on shelf that is front of mind with your shoppers, and meets their buying needs.”

Thatchers Gold value sales have grown by +52.3% (IRI). It has contributed more value to the category for two years in a row.

Thatchers Haze leads the cloudy category, growing by +80.3% in value (IRI).

In Spring 2020 Thatchers launched Thatchers Cloudy Lemon, which became the number one product sku of the year.

Jessica Smith, Marketing Executive at Continental Wine and Food Ltd, comments: “The gin market is ever-innovating and ever-changing in terms of the liquids available, the countries and regions producing it and the consumers it targets. So despite some reports stating gin has reached its peak, we still see no signs of this spirit slowing as the latest 12 week figures show a 22% volume growth on last year and £415 million worth of flavoured gin was sold in the last 12 months.”

Owned and created by Continental Wine & Food Ltd, Perfetto Italian Gin was launched in the UK last year with 2 bold flavours – Pink Grapefruit and Blood Orange – and they more recently launched a third flavour, Perfetto Lemon to complete the range.

“The phrase ‘you drink with your eyes’ has never been truer so whilst the quality of the liquid and the bottle designs are key, colours, labels and brand personality are more important than ever,” adds Smith. “Brand owners must recognise they need to be different if they are to create stand-out in the world of gin and your brand personality should come through in the label. Ultimately labels have always been a crucial part of encouraging purchase, but by creating intrigue and boldness, potential consumers will show interest in your brand story which is essentially where the journey begins.”

Jo Taylorson, head of marketing and product management, Kingsland Drinks, comments: “Throughout the pandemic, with the on-trade instability and uncertainty, we have seen a significant increase in at-home drinking.”

This has led to an increase in sales of alternative format wines such as bag-in-box, plus an increase in sales of some of the most well-known regions and grape varieties, such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

“With less time to spend at fixtures in-store, many consumers are turning to these countries and grapes as reliable favourites that they know will not let them down,” adds Taylorson. “We have also seen a number of consumers moving towards premiumisation, spending that little bit more in retail, but less than they would spend in the on trade, for a weekend night in.”

Kingsland Drinks has a number of new products launching, or just launched. Corte Molino Prosecco Rose is likely to be a star in 2021.

The company has just launched two premium wines from Vandenberg; Six Brothers Tasmanian Pinot Noir and Adelaide Hills Chardonnay are something new for the Australian category.

Kingsland will also be launching The Hidden Sea in collaboration with Limestone Coast Wines. For every bottle sold, The Hidden Sea and The ReSea Project remove 10 plastic bottles from the ocean, so consumers can enjoy a great tasting wine and help the environment at the same time.

Liam Manton, co-founder of Alderman’s Drinks, comments: “Consumers are more environmentally aware than ever before – they want drinks that offer ingredient transparency, there’s also increased demand for organic, vegan products. We’re seeing that translate positively into sales of Didsbury Gin, which is vegan, made with natural fruits, with no additives and flavourings.”

This, fuelled by the soaring popularity of at-home cocktail making during the pandemic, resulted in a 600% increase in sales of Didsbury Gin on Alderman’s website during lockdown. Innovative products such as the home cocktail kits, also saw a 286% increase as consumers looked to recreate high-quality experiences at home during lockdown.

In addition, although there hasn’t been any decline in the popularity of gin, there is a lot of interest around rum. Named the ‘drink of lockdown’, rum has enjoyed 8% volume gains in the last 12 months and is now worth £430 million, placing it behind only whiskies, vodkas and gins in value terms (WSTA). Spiced and flavoured rum in particular, is flying – ARLU Passionfruit & Mango is Alderman’s most popular SKU. It is also helping consumers to put twists on classic cocktails, such as the Mojito or Negroni.

Alderman’s recently launched a range of bartender quality Ready-to-drink Didsbury G&T cans – ideal for outdoor socialising (when it’s allowed). They come in four flavours: Raspberry & Elderflower, Strawberry and Sicilian Lemon, Blood Orange & Ginger and a new addition, the Tutti Frutti Gin Fizz.

“Retailers should support independent brands,” suggests Manton. “We’re expecting consumers to want to support smaller brands, especially unique British ones like ours. We also expect that consumers will look to those brands that have been there to support the community during these unprecedented times. That’s not why we stopped production at our Didsbury Gin site to produce hand sanitiser for key public services, including the NHS, but we certainly hope that it won’t count against us.”

Becky Davies, head of commercial, Ten Locks, comments: “Consumers are driving the burgeoning popularity of tequila and mezcal. Similar to Central and North America, demand over the past four or five years has shown a shift globally towards brands that represent craft and quality. Both tequila and mezcal a perfect fit to meet this appetite due to the history, heritage and craft intrinsic to both segments.”

El Tequileño tequila came into the UK for the first time via Ten Locks late 2020.

El Tequileño has its own 60-year old distillery, employs traditional, sustainable production techniques, and offers a fantastic spectrum of flavours to really showcase how good tequila can be.

“Tequila has come an incredibly long way from student bars and late night clubs, firstly on the back bars of exclusive on trade venues and shelves of specialist retailers, before taking its rightful place as part of any credible BWS offering in retailers,” adds Davies.

Banhez Ensemble is being introduced into the Mezcal category; it’s an ideal option for cocktail development, and expertly positioned to be a popular choice in UK retail and grow further interest in Mezcal at a time when consumers are branching out and buying into new spirits to feed at home drinking occasions.

“The growth in rum has been exponential and will continue to grow in 2021 driven by new expressions, flavour profiles and credible brands coming to the fore,” says Davies. “The category has an incredible pipeline of innovation which means retailers have a wide range of prices, styles and flavours to choose from. In this category, quality and distinction is key as, inevitably, consumers will become wise to the noise and embark on a search for quality.”

Nusa Caña brings a new fresh perspective to a popular category; it is unique in its production, using tropical white rum distilled on Java and fermented with molasses, local water, and red rice cakes, before being distilled twice in steel Chinese pot stills – who brought distilling to Indonesia in the 14th century – and aged in Teak to give a drier finish.

Diablesse Rum celebrates authentic, unique rums of quality and provenance from the Caribbean; every rum is blended using some of the most highly regarded distilleries. Its Clementine Spiced Rum is the only clementine spiced rum in the world.

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