Vodka has eclipsed blended Scotch as the best-selling spirit in take-home –and looks set to be bigger than the entire Scotch whisky market by the end of the year.
After decades at the top of the tree, Scotch has finally lost out to its more fashionable rival, which has soared ahead by 11% to £747 million in the past year, giving it a lead of £5 million sales.
The latest figures from Nielsen show blends were up 1% in the same period to April 19 2008, slowed by tough pricing conditions and the continued struggle to win over new drinkers and shake Scotch’s traditional image.
As a consequence, marketing budgets were squeezed as producers exploited increasingly lucrative opportunities abroad.
In contrast, vodka’s status among younger consumers has been accelerated by the launch of a plethora of premium lines – particularly in the on-trade, where it significantly overshadows any other spirit.
And vodka’s current momentum puts it on track to overtake the combined fortunes of blended and malt whisky, which is up 5% to £130 million, making the total whisky sector worth £872 million in the off-trade.
Nielsen consultant Graham Page said: “Clearly Scotch whisky has issues as a category with new adopters and young drinkers – something that vodka has dominated in recent years.
Internationally, Scotch is carrying premium prices and doing rather well, which vodka would like to repeat. One of the big drivers for vodka has been the arrival of Russian Standard, which was one of the most successful spirit launches for some time.”
He added that even though Christmas will provide a big boost for malt sales, vodka is growing more both by volume and value so will succeed in becoming bigger than malts and blends combined.