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Bullards gin and Bungay brewery reaping rewards of shoppers’ bumper Christmas alcohol spending

PUBLISHED: 16:05 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:05 13 December 2017

Gin is among the alcoholic beverages to have seen a jump in sales this Christmas. Picture: Bullards via Norwich Cocktail Week

Gin is among the alcoholic beverages to have seen a jump in sales this Christmas. Picture: Bullards via Norwich Cocktail Week

Bullards via Norwich Cocktail Week.

Shoppers are getting into the spirit of Christmas and splashing out on a bumper haul of alcoholic beverages.

Steve Magnall, chief executive of St Peter's Brewery in Bungay, with the brewery's St Peter's Without alcohol-free beer. Picture: Lee Blanchflower Steve Magnall, chief executive of St Peter's Brewery in Bungay, with the brewery's St Peter's Without alcohol-free beer. Picture: Lee Blanchflower

New figures show alcohol sales rose by almost £172m in the 12 weeks to December 3 compared with the same period last year – with the growth attributed to consumers upgrading their tipples of choice.

Sales of gin were up by more than a quarter (26%), continuing the rise in the spirit’s popularity seen in recent years, with whisky and sparkling wine seeing increases of 10% and 7% respectively.

Kantar Worldpanel, which compiled the data, said the choice by shoppers to push the boat out this festive season was despite like-for-like grocery inflation standing at 3.6% – its highest level since 2013.

Bullards in Norwich, historically known for its beer, began distilling gin at The Ten Bells on St Benedicts Street two years ago.

Chairman Russell Evans said its small still, capable of turning out around 500 bottles a week, has been working at capacity in the run-up to Christmas to keep up with “phenomenal” sales to retailers including Jarrold.

“Our bottles are flying off the shelves,” he said.

“Gin as a category is fantastic, and as we make ours locally and it is being sold by local retailers it is doing incredibly well.

“We are just about keeping up with demand. The team is working all the hours God sends to fulfil orders for our pubs, restaurants and retailers.

“It is an incredible end to a fantastic year for us.”

While the alcoholic drink market is booming, Kantar’s figures show sales of non-alcoholic beer have seen the most rapid growth, with a 27% jump in sales during the 12 weeks to December 3.

St Peter’s Brewery in Bungay launched its first non-alcoholic beer, St Peter’s Without, last year to uproarious success – Morrisons, Asda, Tesco, Oddbins and Wholefoods Market have all signed deals to stock the beer, along with pub and restaurant chain Vintage Inns.

A third non-alcoholic beer, Without Organic, will soon be joining its range alongside the Original and Gold varieties.

Chief executive Steve Magnall said: “Without Original has become an incredibly popular choice with beer drinkers looking to reduce their units but who still want to enjoy a decent pint of 0.0% alcohol beer.

“Our most recent contract to supply Asda stores with Without Original from January puts our alcohol-free beer sales at around 15% of our overall turnover and growing, it’s a huge part of our business and one we are looking to increase even further with the launch of Without Organic.”

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Despite higher prices the British public is well into the swing of festive shopping.

“Alcohol sales are up by nearly £172m compared to this time last year and while volume sales have increased, this impressive growth is mainly a result of consumers choosing more expensive festive tipples.”

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