Page last updated: October 18, 2017

British drinkers favour premium drinks from branded pubs and upmarket bars

The value of alcohol sold out-of-home in Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants rose by 1.8% in 2016, figures from CGA Strategy reveal. According to CGA’s Alcohol Sales Tracker, the value of alcoholic drink sales climbed to £24.4bn—around £428m higher than in 2015. The volume of sales across the same period, however, fell by 1.7%.

The new data suggests that British drinkers are increasingly favouring premium drinks from branded pubs and upmarket bars. The total value of the out-of-home alcoholic drinks market at £24.6 billion in the year to mid-June—a year-on-year increase of 0.6%, but a decline of 2.6% in volume terms. This continues “a long-term slowdown as British consumers scale back their drinking occasions and spend a little more money on slightly fewer drinks”. The reduction has been most apparent in London, where growth in the value of sales has more than halved in the last year.

There has been a drop in sales of alcoholic drinks through leased and tenanted pubs, and only marginal growth among independent operators. Instead, consumers are increasingly opting to drink at premium bars and managed pubs, often combining their visits with eating. CGA classifies 35% of the out-of-home drinking market as premium—but these outlets now account for 47% of all sales by value, and are gaining market share each year. Sales growth through the managed pub sector is also healthy, standing at 2.8% in the year to mid-June. Above-average sales value growth was seen for cider (2%), but sales growth in spirits halved from the previous year.

The research suggests that more drinkers are heeding messages about healthy levels of alcohol consumption, and are becoming more adventurous in their choices when they do decide to go out.

CGA chief executive Phil Tate said: “Our figures reveal the increasing complexity and sophistication of Britain’s out-of-home drinks market. The small fall in volume sales rebuts the much-publicised idea that levels of unhealthy drinking are soaring, suggesting instead that consumers are continuing to demand better quality when they choose to drink out... Brands that can supply their customers with the right range, atmosphere and experience, and establish clear points of difference from the mainstream, will be best placed to thrive in the years ahead.”
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