Cheers to beers and fine drams

Although shoppers are cutting back on their alcohol spending, whisky remains strong in Scotland’s top 10 alcohol brands in 2023


Lesley Ann Gray, strategic lead for Scotland at market research company Kantar – which provides the listing of the top 50 Scottish non-alcohol brands in Scotland and the top 10 Scottish alcohol brands in Scotland, analyses the year for the leading Scottish brands in Scottish food and drink retailing.

AS inflation rose across food and drink during 2023, shoppers’ behaviour changed as households mitigated the impact of the higher prices.

The off-trade is worth £1.66billion in Scotland and, as the biggest single category, it was not immune to these changes as consumers navigated the different categories and prioritised their budgets.

At Kantar, we saw an in increase in the number of occasions in the on-trade at the expense of occasions in the off-trade as shoppers chose what they wanted to spend their budgets on. (Reference: Alcovision panel 12 months to June 2023.)

This was despite lower levels of inflation recorded for beers, wines and spirits versus household staples such as dairy, bakery and eggs.

This also meant we saw customers switching from more expensive categories such as spirits into beer, cider and wine.

Tennent’s remains as the No.1 brand in Scotland, with Famous Grouse, Whyte & Mackay and Glen’s Vodka continuing to hold the same positions as last year.

Further analysis of the data shows that all top five brands declined in both value and volume when compared to last year – reflecting the impact of the higher cost of living.

At Kantar, we monitor this impact further by grouping shoppers according to how they are feeling – we call these our pressure groups and we split them into those that are managing, those that are struggling and those that are comfortable.

In spirits, we have monitored a decline in spend is coming from all three groups, including those that are comfortable.

This highlights the challenges for brands and shows the resilience of those brands that continue to feature in this list.

Despite these shopper losses in total spirits, whisky has performed better than the spirits category overall, offset by premiumisation and the increase in average price.

This year’s list features both Tamnavulin and Isle of Jura, as well as the renowned blends of Famous Grouse, Whyte & Mackay and Grant’s.

One of the ongoing trends in shopping behaviour has been the continued decline in spend and penetration in the gin category.

This decline in penetration is now an established trend since we came out of lockdown and is being driven across all age groups, with the over-65s now having the highest penetration of gin at 26%, posing a question of how the gin distillers are going to reinvigorate this category.

This is also reflected in none of the many well-known Scottish gin brands making it into our top 10.

The other trend that continues to make the news is the numbers of people who are looking to moderate their alcohol intake.

Our data shows that this has been driven by the under-24s in the last 12 months but is prevalent across all age groups.

Our data shows that the moderation trend is present all year round, with peaks in summer as well as in January.

The main way customers are moderating is by reducing the frequency of alcohol occasions and switching into soft drinks.

Whatever tipple you choose at the bells to welcome in the new year, I hope 2024 brings you both happiness and success.