In spite of a looming duty hike and a rise in raw materials costs across the board - which many in the trade fear will spark off-putting price increases - the
off-trade has come into 2008 buoyantly, with overall alcohol sales growing ahead of inflation and most of the leading brands in growth.
Stella Artois still reigns as the top brand in the UK off-trade, despite a 4 per cent sales slump, followed by Carling and Foster's - showing that lager is still king for British consumers.
But further down the chart there are signs of change - Strongbow has leapfrogged Jacob's Creek and Budweiser to become the first cider in the top 10, and Carlsberg has overtaken Smirnoff Red to take seventh place.
Despite lager's dominance in the off-trade brands league, the beer market overall remained stagnant in the year to Jan 26 2008, according to the latest Nielsen figures - revealed in full exclusively in OLN's Brands Report, from page 21.
Light wine, meanwhile, grew by a very healthy 6 per cent
and looked like it had put its 2006 plateau firmly behind it.
Leading brands Hardys, Gallo, Blossom Hill and Jacob's Creek all showed strong growth.
Cider is the fastest-growing category in the off-trade, surging ahead 25 per cent, with over-ice brands Magners and Bulmers Original climbing 65 per cent and 380 per cent respectively.
Brands report, page 21
Top 10 brands
Nielsen year to Jan 26 2008