Published on July 11, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Gin helps Treasury soak up record revenues

British drinkers downed 12% more gin last year than in the previous 12 months, while beer sales – despite the boom in the craft category – remained fairly flat. This has allowed tax revenues from sales of spirits to overtake those from beer for the first time ever and is undoubtedly due to record sales of gin, according to HM Revenue & Customs.

Duty from spirits (including big sellers whisky and gin) rose by 7% to £3.37bn for the tax year 2016-2017, while beer revenues edged up by a mere 1% to £3.32bn. However, the Treasury still trousers more from wine than either beer or spirits, collecting nearly £4.17bn in tax, up 5% on the year.

British drinkers bought 40 million bottles of gin in 2016, enough to make 1.12 billion G&Ts – or 28 for every person of legal drinking age in the UK.

In the spring and early summer, Cheers North East, along with sister publication Appetite and foodie book producer Relish Publications, hosted two highly successful Planet Juniper gin festivals – at Durham County Cricket Club and South Northumberland Cricket Club in Gosforth, Newcastle. More food and drink events are planned, initially for September, so keep your eyes on Cheers and Appetite.

Festival director Mark Carton said: “This last decade has seen a crop of outstanding new gin distilleries grow in the North east. From Hepple Gin in Rothbury, Northumberland, to Masons Gin in Bedale, North Yorkshire, we have an amazing array of talent and quality in the region.”

More than 50 new distilleries opened in the UK last year, displaying “explosive creativity”, according to one report. And the number of “boutique” distilleries is pushing big brands of the shelves as artisan brands continue to take market share from the global giants, says James Simmonds of accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.

He says: “Both the craft spirits and craft brewery sectors are going through a period of explosive creativity. You can see that in everything from their logos, branding and advertising.

“The quality of the product is streets ahead of their big brand competitors and it’s no wonder the global drinks giants are worried. The best way they have found to deal with the new competition is to get out their chequebooks and buy them up.”

London gin maker Sipsmith, founded less than ten years ago, was bought last December by the Japanese giant Beam Suntory which owns the Jim Beam, Teachers and Courvoisier brands. Other recent deals have included the Edinburgh Gin brand being snapped up by Ian Mcleod Distillers, Scotland’s tenth-largest whisky producer, and Casamigos, the premium tequila brand co-founded in 2013 by George Clooney, sold to global giant Diageo for around £790m ($1bn).

Beer-wise, London-based Meantime Brewery was bought by SABMiller in 2015 then subsequently sold to Asahi Breweries of Japan after SABMiller was taken over by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016, while a San Francisco company has agreed to buy a 22% stake in “punk” beer maker BrewDog in a deal worth £213m.

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Alastair Gilmour

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