A scotch whisky distiller, when asked recently if he made any blends, was gloriously sniffy and dismissive of blended whisky. It would have been interesting to see and hear what he would have made of the Johnnie Walker Directors Blends, which I got to taste last Thursday (November 28) in London.
In its latest market review, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association found that consumers are paying 6.5% more than last year for wines and spirits, while inflation for the year to end of April 2012 was 3%.
The research found that while wine and spirits sales were declining overall, the upper end of the market is in good health.
Among the headline growth segments was 'wine over £10', which grew 32% by volume in the off trade, and 'malt whisky', which was up by 31% in volume in the on-trade.
WSTA interim chief executive Gavin Partington said: "The above inflation increase in the prices of wines and spirits comes as consumers are feeling the pinch and being forced to cut back so it's perhaps not surprising that volume sales overall are depressed.
"But there are encouraging signs elsewhere with wine at higher price points showing strong growth over the year."
Among the findings were:
- Sales of wine in shops were down 3% in volume in the last 12 months and sales of spirits were down 2%.
- Sales of wine dropped by 8% in volume in bars and restaurants for the year to March 2012 and sales of spirits were down 1%.
- Sales of wine in the £7-£8 in the off-trade were up 30% by volume for the year.
- Off-trade sales of wine at higher price points grew significantly
- The average price of alcohol has increased across all categories in the off-trade
- Liqueurs are the only spirits category which showed declines in value in the off-trade over the last year
- Sales of champagne in bars and restaurants have decreased by 13% in volume whereas sales of sparkling wine have increased by 2%
- RTDs continue to decline in the on trade (-3% in volume) as consumers appear to be turning to cider (+6% in volume)
The WSTA Market Report draws on data and analysis from Nielsen (off trade data to end April 2012), CGA Strategy (on trade data to end March 2012) and the Wilson Drinks Report.