UK sales of champagne and sparkling wine lose their fizz in past year

Champagne has slumped in popularity in the UK over the past year, while consumers also kept other forms of sparkling wine on ice.

Sales of the premium French bubbly fell by 28% from about 18m to 13m bottles in the last recorded 12 months, leaving the UK market worth £613m – or about £47 a bottle.

The figures suggest that the lower-end champagne has been hit particularly hard. As recently as 2016, more than 23m bottles were sold in the UK, which was worth £753m, or £33 a bottle – according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), the industry body that compiles the figures.

The lack of fizz in the champagne market came as the WSTA reported that general sparkling wine sales had also dropped by volume, slipping by about 5% on last year to around 140m bottles, with revenues flat at £1.5bn.

The trade body blamed the struggling market on changes in young people’s drinking habits and a rise in the duty on sparkling wine, following changes introduced by former chancellor Philip Hammond in his autumn 2018 budget, which came into effect in February 2019. Those tax increases raised the duty on a bottle of still wine by 7p, and 9p on sparkling wine, while duty on both beer and spirits were frozen.

A WSTA spokeswoman said: “Young people aren’t drinking as much and sales of still wine are generally down. But excise duty plus VAT is pushing up the prices of wine and fizz and [is] definitely taking its toll.”

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However, Andrew Hawes, chairman of the Champagne Agents’ Association, said the off-trade – the sale of alcohol via supermarkets and off-licences and excluding bars and hotels – was down by just 5% in the past year. He added: “The supermarkets are easing off on [sales of own label champagnes] which, coupled with price increases on [well known] brands, is having an effect on sales’ volumes.”

In more positive news, the alcohol trade body said sales of liqueur in the last 12 months have hit their highest ever level, with 43m bottles worth £1.3bn sold, as UK consumers experiment with new cocktails.

The WSTA figures show that over the last year, 18m bottles of cream liqueurs and 25m bottles of non-cream liqueurs were sold – growth of 4% on 2018.

“We expect further growth in 2020 as Britons continue to experiment with new and exciting drinks choices and share their finds on social media,” predicted WSTA CEO Miles Beale.


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