Discounting fears fail to materialise

05 February, 2010

Pre-Christmas fears of a pricing bloodbath in the take-home market appear to have been unfounded, according to new Nielsen figures.

The figures show value sales growing faster than volumes in key product categories.

The total value of take-home alcohol sales was up 6% in the year to December 26, to £13.8 billion, compared to a 2% uplift in volume sales.

Value growth of beer was 4% in the same period, at just short of £3.5 billion, compared with a 1% drop in volume.

Nielsen analyst Graham Page said there had been a focus on smaller multipacks by the major brewers in a bid to “rebuild shattered margins”.

“Virtually every brewer in the UK is announcing price increases,” he said. “They have to find a way of trying to build margins. This Christmas a focus on 10, 12 and 15-packs meant less people bought 18 and 24-packs, so volume inevitably dropped,” he said.

The figures conflict with earlier reported data from the British Beer & Pub Association which suggested off-trade beer sales fell 3.1% in 2009, the largest fall in over 30 years.

In wine, Nielsen reported 6% value growth in 2009, ahead of volume increases of 3%, and there were identical value and volume growth figures for spirits.

“There’s been a big reduction in the under-£3 bottle sector and a lot of movement in the £4-£5 category,” said Page.

The widely-anticipated point when off-trade beer volumes surpass those of the on-trade edged closer, with the take-home market now accounting for 43% of all beer sold in the UK.

British wine, golden rum and cream liqueurs were the fastest-growing off-trade categories by both value and volume in 2009.

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