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Gin months away from eclipsing vodka as the UK’s biggest spirits category

Published:  30 October, 2019

After years of forecasting and speculation, gin is poised to finally push ahead of vodka as the UK’s biggest spirits category in 2020, with flavoured variants pushing the category to ever greater heights. 

There have been rumblings for some time that gin will overtake vodka as the UK’s spirit of choice in time for the new decade.

And now, with 2020 on the very near horizon, it has been confirmed that gin is indeed months away from stealing vodka’s crown.

Via insight from William Grant & Sons’ Trending 2020 report, Harpers can confirm that gin grew 45% in the year to June 2019, during which time its net contribution across the on and off-trades was £2.4bn.

Vodka on the other hand netted £3bn, down from £3.3bn the previous year (-1.5%)

If these growth rates continue – as they are expected to – by June next year, gin will be at £3.5bn versus £3bn for vodka, making gin officially the UK’s most popular spirit ahead of vodka, whisky and so on.

“Gin was once stereotyped as a clear, bitter spirit reserved for a niche few,” reads the report.

“But the versatility of the liquid has [moved perceptions on] from a serious category to a playful spirit well-known to be shared with friends or enjoyed alone in style. “Innovation and premiumisation of the category has seen new flavours, new occasions and new formats now emerge across the UK.”

Nearly a decade into the gin boom, it is this playfulness and versatility that is now providing the thrust of gin’s growth.

While new occasions and formats, helped along by a healthy dose of premiumisation, have all contributed to the ‘ginaissance’, it is innovation around flavoured variants that is now sustaining interest, as well as bringing newcomers to the category.

According to Nieslen, flavoured now accounts for over a third of all off-trade gin sales.

The challenge going forward will be to keep the momentum going.

“Consumer palates will continue to evolve, so relying on the sweet berry dew of pink gin will not suffice in the long-term…it’s important for gin brands to maintain levels of innovation and continue to respond to changing consumer tastes,” the report concludes.

For the full lowdown on gin and vodka’s tussle, see Harpers’ November print edition where we look at the future for both categories.