Alcohol sales up 2.2% over Christmas period

Sales of alcohol were up 2.2% last November/December, a rise of €9.4 million according to Nielsen in its Christmas Review, published recently.

Excluding tobacco, the top three categories of alcohol, confectionery and chilled grocery were responsible for 68% of total Christmas sales and 91% of the overall growth in sales witnessed over the two-month period.

The multiples saw alcohol sales grow by 2.1% or €4.8 million while alcohol was the big winner for the discounters with a growth in sales of 13% or €6.6 million.

Alcohol and confectionery tended to dominate the Top 10 incremental sales figures in the two-month period with gin sales up by €4.7 million, sparkling wines up €3.4 million, carbonated soft drinks sales up €2.8 million and whiskey up €1.74 million.

Guinness, Coca-Cola, Carlsberg and Heineken, led the Top 10 brand advertisers in the November-December period followed by Pepsi/7UP Free, Smithwicks, Lyons Tea, Schweppes Tonic, Hop House 13 and Ferrero Rocher.


Pack size matters

Nielsen also found that larger packs performed strongly at Christmas. In the Beer & Cider sector, large packs took 33% of the value share in the eight weeks to Christmas where they’d normally be responsible for just 22% the rest of the year.

Similarly, larger format carbonated soft drinks found their share running at 18% in this period where it would normally take just 9% of the category’s value.

This particular spending period is recognised by leading brands as being the time to promote heavily with more return than at other times of the year.

For example Schweppes embarked on a highly-visible ‘Jingle & Tonic’ promotion in-store and outdoor. With Schweppes’ media spend up 22%, availability up 17% (and price up 22%), Schweppes witnessed a sales increase of 25%, four times the 7% increase recorded for the rest of the year.

Similarly, Baileys ‘Don’t mind if I Baileys’ promotion saw it grow its media spend by 110% for a 22% increase in sales.


Seasonal value-added packaging

Value-added packaging helped increase the value of gifting opportunities at this time of year too.

A couple of examples can be seen to have driven incremental value for the brands concerned. Hendrick’s Gin Gift Pack cost an additional €6.67 per 70cl bottle and was responsible for 15% of the brand’s value sales, but its overall contribution to brand growth was 34%.

Bombay Sapphire gin’s 70cl gift pack cost an extra €2.24 and contributed 10% to the brand’s value sales. It’s contribution to brand growth was 16%.

Christmas spending habits are also the subject of a Mintel report  published last month, February, which found that branded drinks appealed strongly to consumers during the Christmas period.

“When buying food for Christmas 2017, Irish consumers showed a strong preference for purchasing branded alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks compared to own-label products,” stated the report, “This likely reflects that consumers are looking to treat themselves, family members and friends over Christmas and that they are willing to splash out when doing so.”

Consumer preferences when buying food for Christmas 2017, NI and RoI, January 2018

Base: 630 NI and 1,279 RoI internet users aged 16+ who bought food for Christmas


Branded Own-label No preference I do not buy this type of food/drink for Christmas
% % % %
Wine/spirits (eg vodka/whiskey) 58 10 13 17
Beer/cider 58 9 11 20
Soft drinks/juices 54 18 19 9
*Sample size under 100
Source: Toluna/Mintel


According to Mintel’s Senior Consumer Analyst Brian O’Connor, “Irish consumers spent more during Christmas 2017 compared with Christmas 2016, showing strong gift purchasing and a high level of favouritism for branded goods when shopping for Christmas groceries.” 

Sign Up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's free