The UK’s top 100 alcohol brands 2016: a tough year for brands

Image of alcohol on supermarket shelves as part of post on the top 100 alcohol brands by social media agency Clarity Comms

The UK’s top 100 alcohol brands 2016: a tough year for brands

The Grocer has published its annual list of the top 100 alcohol brands. With plenty of innovation from craft brewers and distillers, how have the big drinks brands fared over the last 12 months? We’ve had a delve around the data to gauge the performance of Britain’s top 100 alcohol brands and to see which brands have moved up and down the league table since last year.


Chart showing share of categorie

In category terms beer remains the biggest category with the 22 brands in the list accounting for over a third of the value (of the top 100). The category’s value has fallen by 0.4% since last year. The value of the ciders in the top 100 has also declined by 1.2% with the category accounting for 7.5% of the value of the top 100.

The wines and spirits brands in the top 100 have fared better with both categories growing in value by 3.6% and 2.9%. However, these figures all hide some of the more challenging trading environment faced by many of the UK’s biggest alcohol brands.

A closer look at the performance of the top 10 shows a very different picture.

Image of the top 10 drinks brands as part of post by social media agency Clarity Comms on the top 100 alcohol brands in 2016

The top 10 is largely unchanged with 9 brands still in the top 10. The one change is Jack Daniels breaking into the top ten and replacing fellow spirit brand Grouse. Aside from Jack Daniel’s impressive growth and small growth for Smirnoff and Budweiser, the last 12 months haven’t been kind to the rest of the top 10.

The other seven have seen a staggering £169m in value lost over the last year and has taken the top 10’s share of value from 42.2% last year to 37.8% this year. Carlsberg is the biggest loser seeing its volume fall by 20%. Yet this isn’t unexpected following Tesco’s decision to drop the brand last year. Blossom Hill, Fosters and Hardy’s all had a tough year with declines of 13.8%, 5.7% ad 3.2% respectively. The ongoing battle with the discounters continues to impact on the big brands. It’s not all bad news. The top 100 alcohol brands include plenty of drinks brands who saw solid growth over the last year.

The challenges facing the sector can be seen by looking at both the winners and losers in each category. Take cider and the performance of the 9 core ciders as shown in the table below.

Image showing cider rankings from post on the top 100 alcohol brands 2016

The results show a more complex picture. Brands on the up as well as in decline. The falls for Bulmers and Magners (along with Stella Cidre) suggest that the burst of growth led by innovations in fruit ciders have coming crashing down. Kopparberg though goes from strength-to-strength with Westons and Thatchers also seeing growth, the latter significantly so. A similar picture is there in wine with some brands are seeing big losses, others growing.


The top 100 alcohol brands: craft, innovation and marketing

The results for the top 100 alcohol brands in 2016 have been decidedly mixed. Just over half experienced growth with 36 brands declining. So what is the key to future success? The Grocer sees ‘craft’ as key and highlights the performance of key ‘craft’ beer and spirits brands. Yet there are problems with this not least in defining craft or in recognising the tiny share it holds versus the big brands.

What is true is that innovation (or craft) and solid marketing are key. Innovation is important simply because some categories are going to be shorter lived than others. Fruit ciders may be a recruiter for core ciders but consumers can easily switch to the next cool thing. And herein lies the danger. Is innovation focussed on short product life cycles with brands supported accordingly?

More importantly, how long can brands expect to grow in the ruthlessly competitive retail market?  The top 100 alcohol brands show that this is the key issue: how can they convince the retailers to move away from price towards innovation, quality and premium products?