'An age of uncertainty': The William Grant Market Report 2018

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

14 July 2017

The William Grant Market Report has been released for a seventh year, and once again gives an interesting snapshot of what is happening across the drinks industry.

The scene was broadly set in the presentation by the William Grant team declaring that we are now living in an age of uber-uncertainty, thanks to events such as Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as US President, numerous terrorist attacks in the UK and abroad, and spates of hacking.

Gary Keogh, marketing director of William Grant UK announced that this has led to a polarisation in society between those he called ‘world embracers’, seeking out different experiences, adventures and opinions; and those who like to stay in their echo chamber, surrounding themselves with those who reflect their views.

The figures

Beyond the trends, the Market Report also had a whole host of figures looking into the state of the drinks industry, the headline of which is that overall sales for beers, wines and spirits (BWS) in the UK now total £40.3bn a year, up 1.3% on the previous year.

Looking specifically at the on-trade, the total sales of BWS is £24.4bn of that total, up 1.4% annually. Breaking that down, pubs had an excellent year, enjoying £9.8bn of those sales, up 3.3%; hotels and restaurants saw £4.6bn in BWS sales, up 1.4%; while bars and clubs saw £10bn of sales, down 0.5% on the previous year.

‘Managed groups are growing by 5.7% a year as opposed to independent venues, which are growing by 1.5%,’ said Craig Greenberg, head of strategic planning and insight at William Grant UK. ‘Consumers have less disposable income, and want to ensure they’re going to have a good time when they go out – they see managed groups as delivering on expectations.’

By far and away the biggest spirits sector in the on-trade is vodka, with 29.3% value share, but this figure has dipped 0.3% in the last year.

According to the report, sales growth is being driven in actual terms by gin (+£86.8m), spiced and flavoured rum (+£38.3m), non-cream liqueurs (+£34.5m) and American whiskey (+£16.5m). On top of this, premium spirits (bottles with an RRP of £23 or above) sales are still driving the growth in the on-trade, growing 8.7% faster a year than ‘normal’ spirits.

It appears that pubs are increasingly getting in on the cocktail action (perhaps a reason for that growth in sales mentioned above?), with one in three pubs now offering cocktails, as opposed to one in four in the previous year.

Finally, it was highlighted that restaurants are still the fastest-growing share of the on-trade, with 21% more restaurants in the UK since 2011. Tied to this, one in five consumers now say that the quality of alcohol offered is extremely important when choosing where they should go and eat – up from one in eight in 2015.

The five key trends

  • Expectations Thanks to technological developments such as Netflix, Deliveroo and Amazon Prime, people expect instant gratification. On top of this, mass hyper-personalisation is ‘set to be massive’, declared Keogh. Customers may also expect gratification sooner, but they question what good companies are doing, as consciousness around sustainability grows.

  • Experiences Have become about the collective, with customers wanting to unite around shared experiences, such as the sober raves of Morning Gloryville.

  • Health The continued moderation of alcohol and demonisation of sugar, with people drinking less but better. ‘There are 170,000 apps available to track and control your health,’ announced Keogh. ‘This is one of the biggest innovation drivers in the drinks industry, leading to development of products such as Skinny Prosecco and alcohol-free beer like Innis & None.

  • Identity Is in flux, with people coming out in force to support movements such as Black Lives Matter and feminism, regardless of their age, ethnicity or gender.

  • Treats An incredibly long-burning trend that links back to the start of austerity, people will buy small treats for themselves as a reaction to austerity and uncertainty. This year’s report highlighted a ‘kidult’ trend in the on-trade relating to this, with the growth of activities such as adult trampoline pens and the Junkyard Golf Club brand.



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