“We are seeing the impact of this transition and transformation as consumers are turning to single malts and US whiskeys, primarily, supported by other imports from the likes of Japan and Canada, plus the reinvigorated Irish whiskey market.”
To treat whisky as a homogeneous category is to disguise the dramatic shifts we are seeing across the off-trade.
The headline statistic is that whisky value sales were relatively flat in 2018.
However, this has been driven solely by falling sales in blends – a trend with which we have become familiar. Retailers have understandably trimmed their ranges to focus on those brands with high consumer awareness and demand to create space for higher-margin, premium marques (The Famous Grouse is a good example of a blends brand resisting the cuts due to its strong brand equity and high shopper loyalty).
We are seeing the impact of this transition and transformation as consumers are turning to single malts and US whiskeys, primarily, supported by other imports from the likes of Japan and Canada, plus the reinvigorated Irish whiskey market. This sheer breadth of offering is vital in helping consumers to explore beyond their comfort zone and try new things, driving future growth not just in value and volume but, more importantly, potential margin.
Retailers will benefit hugely from a comprehensive and well-merchandised whisky aisle, ensuring the breadth needed to entice new drinkers in whilst keeping established whisky-lovers coming back for more.
Consumer exploration is at the heart of this – driven by a combination of breadth and accessibility, anyone visiting an off-trade retailer is likely to be faced with a greater selection now than ever before, with a wide array of price points to match. This ensures that anyone already familiar with the category can easily look to start trading up whilst new consumers are able to dip their toe without needing to break the bank doing so.
Retailers continue to work on optimising their ranges, fixtures, shopper engagement and education – all of which is enhancing value in the category.
That you can easily pick up Laphroaig Select for around £25 (on offer) from a supermarket goes to show that good (in this case great) single malt whisky isn’t priced out of most shopping baskets.
And most consumers, whether new to whisky or established lovers, will jump at the chance to pick up a great product at that price. Such accessibility hasn’t been the case previously and as it continues we are likely to see more superb drams making their way into people’s trollies.
Equally, as the appetite for imported whisky continues to grow, and the previously relatively little-known producers such as Japan and Canada mature as whisky regions in their own right, we are seeing a real shift in the landscape of sales in the off-trade through sheer variety alone.
Most notably, US whiskey with its affordability and breadth of flavour – across ryes and bourbons – present an easy way to get acquainted with a new pour.
As with the on-trade in the previous chapter, retailers will benefit hugely from a comprehensive and well-merchandised whisky aisle, ensuring the breadth needed to entice new drinkers in whilst keeping established whisky-lovers coming back for more.