Cheers to Christmas
It’s the largest celebration of the year and a key opportunity for wholesalers. But what are the drinks products to focus on and the trends to look out for this Christmas? Wholesale News got the lowdown from some leading drinks brands
PREMIUM IS TRENDY
Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director at Heineken UK, says he’s seen the consumer demand for premium beers and ciders accelerate over the past year, making stocking a wide range crucial for sales
“These products have taken a greater share of range and promotional voice in the past year, and shopper repeat rates have exceeded expectations, thus highlighting the quality these ranges now deliver.
“Wholesalers need to respond to this trend by offering the right range of premium alternatives that suit the Christmas occasion. Heineken is a great example of a brand driving this trend in 2019 and delivering exponential growth in the category; it is currently experiencing 19% growth in the impulse channel. 
“In depot, wholesalers should ensure premium options are displayed in prominent positions, either at the end of aisles or as part of larger displays, to remind retailers to stock up for the occasion. And allocate enough space to popular lines to avoid having to continually re-merchandise when managing retailers’ demands.
“The alcohol-free category is one of the fastest-growing segments in the market and will see success this Christmas with the continued rise of health-conscious shoppers driving sales. This means there is ample opportunity for wholesalers to educate retailers on the benefit of introducing a core no- and low-alcohol range and harness additional sales from retailers who are keen to cater for consumers looking to ‘live better’ without compromising on taste. Heineken® 0.0 has swiftly become the fastestgrowing brand in the segment with a growth of 129%  and with only 69 calories per bottle, it also supports those looking to make healthier choices. Wholesalers should dedicate space to no- and low-alcohol options in depot, online and through print communications.
“As classic and mainstream beer and cider are still accounting for 65%  of the category, getting the basics right by stocking a staple range, such as Foster’s and Strongbow Dark Fruit, is key. However, with 39%  of shoppers more inclined to trade up to more premium food and drink options as a treat at Christmas, offering Birra Moretti, Old Mout and Desperados, for instance, will be crucial to help offer customers trade-up options.
“Wholesalers must not underestimate the power of their website and social media channels. Ensuring they post regularly to remind retailers about upcoming events and must-stocks is key to maximising sales in depot and online.”
[1/2] Nielsen Scantrack Impulse Channel Value Sales Data to 14.09.19;  ACNielsen 52 Week Rolling MAT Value Sales;  HIM omni channel barometer
THE ENERGY SURGE
Simon Gray, Founder and Managing Director of Boost Drinks, talks about the trends currently driving the category
We know from speaking to our customers that there’s a growing demand for sugar-free energy drinks. With consumers shifting their soft drink purchases to low-sugar alternatives, there’s now an additional 11 million litres of lower-sugar soft drinks being consumed every week.
“With Christmas being such an indulgent period, consumers may be looking for lower sugar alternatives when choosing a soft drink. Our sugar-free variants perform well in store and all our Boost Energy SKUs are either low-sugar or completely sugar-free to ensure wholesalers’ customers are catering for the growing number of people who are looking the energy surge to reduce their sugar intake.
“The trend for teetotalism is a huge opportunity for wholesalers to boost their festive soft drink sales as people are looking to buy low- and no-alcohol products that keep the party spirit high throughout the festivities. Around 20% of the population is not drinking at all and the figure continues to increase among younger consumers. 
“The shoppers most likely to buy soft drinks at Christmas are those hosting or attending parties who want to stock up on drinks that everyone can enjoy and share. This means Christmas is a key time for wholesalers to encourage their customers to maximise take-home sales and stock up on products such as our Boost Energy 1-litre, which is currently the UK’s number-one takehome energy SKU, and our Boost Energy Original 250ml 4-pack, which is in massive growth of 120% ”
 alcoholchange.org.uk;  IRI Marketplace Data Symbols and Independents 52 weeks unit sales to 19th May 2019
Chris Shead, Off-Trade Channel Director for Pernod Ricard, says quality spirits are key
“There are five key categories within premium spirits that wholesalers, and in turn retailers, should focus on getting right: gin; Irish whisky; blended scotch; vodka; and wine. These are the products that all lend themselves to the two key consumer drinking occasions at Christmas of giving the perfect gift and being the best hosts at home. More consumers are visiting convenience stores over Christmas and they’re spending more, with the leading premiumising product being spirits. 
“It was a good Christmas for the convenience channel last year, however, it continued to fall behind grocery as retailers failed to maximise the premium spirits opportunity. The data all points towards a third gin-dominated Christmas this year, but we also anticipate this year to be driven by gifting outside of traditional categories, such as gin, as well as lead ingredients for popular cocktails and mixed drinks.
“Premium wine volume peaks at Christmas as consumers buy slightly more and look to trade up. We recommend wholesalers look at Campo Viejo and Brancott Estate as Campo Viejo, the UK’s number-one red wine, and Brancott Estate, the UK’s number-two white wine, are recognisable brands.”
 Kantar Worldpanel – 52 March 19
Simon Rucker, Co-founder and Joint CEO of Nine Elms, believes the unique brand has created a distinctive product to fill a gap in the alcohol-free quality drinks market
We’re incredibly proud of our brand Nine Elms and everything it stands for. We wanted to create a truly exceptional range of alcohol-free drinks that can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates good food. No.18 is the first drink we’ve launched in the UK and we believe our range successfully bridges the divide between alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.”
Non-alcoholic drinks expert James Morgan, from the Nine Elms team, adds: “Christmas is a time when friends, family and colleagues come together to celebrate. Offering a more interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks ensures everyone feels included.
“There’s a huge gap in the market for high-quality, alcohol-free alternatives to the sorts of alcoholic drinks that are traditionally served with food and we believe that Nine Elms No.18 is the first to properly address this, making it a must-stock for wholesalers.
“Although No.18 is designed to serve as a straight pour and pairs well with a wide range of foods, it also shines in a range of cocktails.”
RISE OF THE HOT ALCOHOLIC DRINK
Hot cocktails are the most popular warm alcoholic drink enjoyed by consumers when out of home. CGA’s Christmas Report 2018 shows that of the 5% of those surveyed who have seen hot cocktails served out, 31% have subsequently purchased, compared with the next most popular hot alcoholic drink, which is mulled wine – 45% have seen the drink served and only 28% have actually then gone on to buy it.
PROVIDING A DIFFERENT CHOICE
Offering a third way to socialise between drinking and not drinking, recently launched Three Spirit brings a new, natural alternative to booze to the market with its first plant-powered ‘social elixir’.
Responding to the growing number of people reducing alcohol intake who are looking for exciting social alternatives, alcohol-free Three Spirit combines eleven herbs and plants. Three Spirit experienced rapid growth in its first three months and has two new products out later this year.
Bestway’s Category Controller Wines & Spirits, Herchelle Perez Terrado, gives her advice on what to stock in depot this festive period
“With more than half of people (52%) shopping in a local convenience store at least once a week  and Christmas a big trading period for retailers, the festive season is a key opportunity for wholesalers, like Bestway, to drive sales, increase basket spend and maximise profits for the financial year.
“The drinks market – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – presents a significant sales opportunity, with hundreds of thousands of people getting together with family and friends at home to celebrate Christmas.
“Spirits – in particular gin – continue to be a popular choice. Gin is officially the nation’s favourite spirit, with more than a quarter of the population purchasing gin in 2018.  In the 12-week Christmas period to 29 December, sales of gin were up 40% in 2018, compared to the same period the year before.  The trend for flavoured gins is also strong, with this valued at í165 million in 2018 – a staggering 751% growth compared to 2017. 
“We ensure we stock an array of well-known gins from established brands – for all price points – as well as more niche, local brands to ensure retailers can enjoy a slice of the gin-fuelled action. Creating a dedicated ‘gin station’ in store will also help encourage cross-selling across both gin brands and mixers.
“Wine – particularly sparkling wine – continues to be a staple choice for many consumers, largely in light of the prosecco trend that kick-started this a few years ago. Stocking a variety of sparkling options will almost guarantee a healthy flow of sales for retailers in the run-up to Christmas. In 2013, 98 million bottles of sparkling wine and champagne were purchased in the UK; last year, 164 million were purchased, with around a quarter of these being drunk on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. 
“It’s not only alcoholic drinks that are important to consider – 5.4 million adults don’t drink alcohol at all now, up from 4m in 20136. This is fuelled by a change in cultural and consumer habits with people seeking a healthier lifestyle than before. The demand for soft drink options has grown, so offering interesting and appealing options for adults is key, such as quirky tonic flavours and flavoured waters.”
KEY OPPORTUNITY FOR SOFT DRINKS
CCEP’s Senior Trade Communications Manager Amy Burgess offers her view on getting the range right
“Grocery sales increased over the festive period in 2018 with more people buying soft drinks than the previous five years, highlighting the growing opportunityfor wholesalers to tap into the Christmas spirit and boost their sales.
“Coca-Cola is, for many people, synonymous with Christmas and our Holidays are Coming TV advert is often hailed as the unofficial start of the festive season. At this time of year, when groups of friends and families get together, offering a wide choice of drinks is key and wholesalers should consider the full Coca-Cola portfolio to ensure they are meeting every consumer need.
“Consumers are becoming more adventurous than ever and are looking to experiment with new and exciting variants of their favourite soft drinks, so it’s increasingly important to keep an eye out for the latest flavour innovations across a range of different soft drinks formats. Our new Coca-Cola zero sugar Raspberry and Diet Coke Twisted Strawberry have proven extremely popular, now worth £7 million. 
“Premium and artisan options are helping to drive the growth of low- and no-sugar soft drinks, with products like Appletiser proving popular whether being enjoyed on their own as a sophisticated alternative to alcohol, or as an ingredient for Christmas cocktail or mocktail making at home.
“In May we unveiled one of our biggest innovations yet: Coca-Cola Signature Mixers – a range of premium mixers available in four distinctive cola flavours. Each flavour is designed to enhance the complex flavour profiles of different premium spirits, with a focus on dark spirits, bringing new taste combinations that will excite seasoned premium spirits drinkers, as well as attracting new consumers.
“It’s worth keeping stocks high throughout the Christmas holiday to meet increasing demand for soft drinks, with as wide a choice of products as possible, considering a range of variants and pack formats to provide options that appeal to every consumer taste and occasion.”
 AC Nielsen YTD Total Coverage w.e. 13.07.19
THE LOWDOWN ON RED BULL
Why energy drinks have a place all year round
As the number-one sports and energy drink brand, shoppers are spending more on Red Bull each year – Christmas 2018 sales showed growth of 16.2%  – and have the highest spend per shopper over the festive period, making Red Bull a must-stock for wholesalers.
When it comes to consumer trends, Red Bull recommends wholesalers stock a selection of the brand’s portfolio to meet a broad range of shopper needs over Christmas. With energy drinks growing at 11.1%, sugar-free growing at 20.2% and editions growing at 5.4%2, now is the perfect time to stock up.
 IRI – Value (Total UK, Red Bull, Functional Energy) – Data 52 w/e 27/07/2019 vs YA / 5 w/e 29/12/2018 2IRI – Value (Total UK, Red Bull, Functional Energy) – Data 52 w/e 27/07/2019 vs YAAlcohol alcohol-free Bestway Boost Drinks category advice Christmas Coca-Cola European Partners cocktails Heineken Nine Elms Pernod Ricard premiumisation Red Bull Soft Drinks Three Spirit trends wholesale