The ones to watch…

The ones to watch …

So, what are the key messages that we can take from the 2012 performance of Scotland’s top-selling, take-home drinks brands? Which are the product categories, market trends and drinks to look out for in the coming year?

Tsar of the show! Russian Standard vodka, fastest-growing brand in the 2012 - 2013 off-trade top 50.
Tsar of the show! Russian Standard vodka, fastest-growing brand in the 2012 – 2013 off-trade top 50.
IT’S complicated out there! Where, in previous years, it was often quite easy to determine trends and many sectors and brands moved in similar ways, 2012 was different. Brands we could have expected to be very resilient have apparently come under more severe pressure than before. And sectors like wine and cider which until recently had shown good growth have found things much tougher in recent times.

HOWEVER it is difficult to tell whether some declines might have been strongly influenced by the well-documented troubles and relatively poor performance of many of the supermarkets in large parts of 2012 and by the success of discounters – who normally do not sell established brands.

THE move towards home entertaining may have given off-trade sales a major boost in the early years of the recession. Now it is likely to be more difficult to achieve year-on-year growth.

BUT some trends do appear to be developing and some of those could be seen as closely linked to the growth in home entertaining. There are rising sales of certain premium and super-premium products, such as Chivas Regal whisky, new-wave Scottish-produced gins and Grey Goose vodka, for example. Niche products linked with different types of bar and venue, such as Jagermeister are also seeing increased off-trade sales. Consumers who discover the brands in smart bars, music venues and the like are looking for them for home use too.

AND there’s growing interest in craft beer, and especially in the output of many Scottish micro breweries. The supermarkets realised some time ago that giving space to such products, even if they do not sell in very large quantities, can show a store provides choice and can attract customers who otherwise might shop elsewhere. However with some of the ale-in-bottle products now registering more than £1m of Scottish take-home sales in a year they are becoming important, on a sales basis, in their own right.

PROBABLY also linked to home entertaining is an apparently keen and growing consumer interest in convenience drinks. While RTDs aimed at young adults have seen declining sales, premixes that provide an instant “solution” similar to a bar-served drink (for example Smirnoff or Jack Daniels and cola) are showing growth. Many brands were pushing their pre-mixed products ahead of summer last year in the hope of a decent barbecue season. Sadly it didn’t arrive but if we get good summer weather this year the pre-mixes could take off.
IN the cider world some of the big money is on flavoured ciders. Last year saw sales of flavoured ciders provided by Kopparberg and Heineken’s Bulmer 17 brand more than double. Now Heineken, by far the biggest cider player by virtue of its massive Strongbow brand, has recast its flavoured cider operation and is launching an extended range.

WHILE some of the main brands found things difficult in 2012 many of the value brands found things tougher still. It looks as if a combination of significant promotional work by brands and consumer desire to find ways of making an evening in a little bit special is causing a squeeze on value brands.

IN a similar vein and with the tough times unlikely to change we can probably expect continuingly aggressive promotions by big drinks brands and increasing use of price-marked packs.

Fastest growers among brands in the top 50 – on moving annual total sales at week ending 05.01.13