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Brits almost halve alcohol intake during lockdown

Published:  29 July, 2020

Brits consumed 1.3 billion litres of alcohol during the UK’s lockdown period, almost half the 2 billion litres recorded during the same period last year, according to new data from Nielsen Scantrack and CGA.

This is despite UK consumers spending £7.7bn on alcohol in UK supermarkets, an additional £1.9bn compared to the same time last year, in the 17-week period covering lockdown to 11 July 2020, as consumers shifted spend following the mass closures of pubs and restaurants. 

However, the increased expenditure has not represented ‘business as usual’ for alcohol manufacturers, with the lack of on-trade purchases having led to a lower volume of alcohol sold overall, stated the research. 

"While there is a perception that lockdown has been a boozy one and that we’re consuming more alcohol than normal, this is far from the case," said Gemma Cooper, senior client business partner at Nielsen.

“With an average of 46% of all alcohol spend typically going towards the on-trade, many consumers have shifted some of this spend to supermarkets during the lockdown period.  

“Without being able to go out or socialise with others during the peak of the pandemic, and no access to dine-in pubs or restaurants, we have seen a natural decline in alcohol consumption even as at-home drinking increased.”

UK shoppers spent £2.4bn on wine, £516m more than the same time last year, with spirits sales having also increased during lockdown to £1.9bn, totalling almost £450m more than last year.

In contrast, Champagne sales fell by £9m, a decline Nielsen said is likely to be a result of supermarkets cutting back on their promotions during the peak of the stockpiling period, and people having less to celebrate while confined to their homes.  

Beer meanwhile was the most popular drink of the lockdown period, with consumers spending an additional £737m in supermarkets during the full 17-week period compared to the same time last year. 

The increased demand for beer is likely attributed to the relatively cheap price point and that it’s easy to store, allowing Brits to easily bulk buy and stock up on trips to the supermarket. 

The same can be said for cider, which followed a similar pattern, with sales increasing by 48% to £537m in the lockdown period compared to the same time last year.

“Beer has unequivocally been the drink of lockdown, and UK consumers have also enjoyed exploring beyond their usual brands and opting for more premium options,” said Cooper.

With the on-trade now in the process of reopening, it would be “interesting to see how consumers’ alcohol spending adapts”, she added. 

“While some will be desperate for the comfort of the local pub or the atmosphere of a restaurant, many are likely to remain cautious for the time being, choosing to drink at home with friends and family for a little while longer.”