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Drinks category bolsters supermarkets in battle with discounters

Published:  12 January, 2016

The beers, wines and spirits category was one of the big winners over the festive season, according to the latest figures from IRI.

Drinks sales rose 11.5% to £515.3 million in the week ending 26 December and 3% to £251.1 million in the week ending January 2, compared to the same period last year.

Sales of sparkling wines and Champagne were particularly strong, rising 18% for the fortnight year on year.

Sparkling wines grew by 14.5% across the year to hit £905 million, IRI reported.

Sales of spirits were up £20 million for the fortnight, hitting £164 million in the Christmas week and £70 million the week after.

Tim Eales, strategic insight director at IRI, said: "The major multiples did hold their own to a large extent over the festive period, helped by a strong performance from the beers, wines and spirits categories.

"Long term, the market for alcohol has been falling in the UK, but supermarket sales have risen slightly across 2015 to £12.1bn (+1%), and grew in the final week of the year when most other FMCG categories declined.

People are changing where they shop for beer, wine and spirits, buying more from supermarkets and drinking less out of home.

"This is one area where supermarkets may not lose so much to the discounters - when buying alcohol for a special occasion or a gift, people want a brand name on the bottle."

Despite festive sales, the discount retailers are continuing to thrive at the expense of the Big Four multiples, global insight analysts Nielsen reported today.

Aldi's sales grew 20.6% for the last quarter, while Lidl's were up 17.9%.

Only Sainsbury's of the Big Four could muster any growth, posting a meagre 0.2% uplift over the quarter, with Asda, Morrisons and Tesco all in decline by up to 4.2%.