Top Brands 2018: The big names are still the top brands

Despite the craft revolution, the biggest players retain their top spots

Top brands 2018

CGA - Phenomenal data. Expert Insight.
In conjunction with CGA

ON the surface, all’s quiet on the northern front, with the five biggest-selling drinks brands in Scotland’s pubs and bars holding their positions for another year. But the calm at the top end of this year’s Top Brands list belies the turbulence just beneath the surface.

The rise of craft beers and small-batch spirits has had a marked impact on the way many pub customers choose their drinks, and Scotland’s pub and bar operators – as well as the drinks companies that supply them – have had to adapt.

However, reports of the death of the big brand are greatly exaggerated.

Even a cursory glance through this year’s Top Brands list shows that, despite the growing popularity of smaller, local producers, the big boys are still very much in charge.

Tennent’s Lager, Smirnoff, Guinness, Captain Morgan and Carling remain the five most popular drinks brands in the Scottish on-trade, holding their positions from last year. Further down the list, however, things are a little less stable, with some brands having made significant progress in the past year while others have seen performance drop.

As in previous years, the data for the Top Brands list was compiled by CGA from more than 5000 sources, including sales data from a range of different outlets, wholesalers and distributors.

In the majority of cases each listing represents the full ‘brand family’, but where a specific product has achieved significant sales that product may be included separately.

Readers should also be aware that CGA’s research model is adjusted regularly, at which point historic sales data is reworked using the new model. This means there can be no direct comparison with last year’s SLTN list.

1. Tennent’s Lager, C&C Group  

Tennent's pint

QUALITY has been the name of the game for Tennent’s this year.

Wellpark has long been a champion of cellar management in the on-trade, but this year the brewer has stepped it up, launching a dedicated Tennent’s Lager Care campaign that has seen it establish a new training programme – which is free for licensees and their teams to access.

Elsewhere, Tennent’s has continued to keep its presence on the bar fresh with special edition fonts as well as extending its sponsorship of Scottish Rugby.

2. Smirnoff, Diageo  


THE Smirnoff team never shrinks away from tackling the big issues.

Last year brand owner Diageo launched a campaign tackling LGBT+ hate on social media. This year, a global campaign with Spotify promoted equality for female musicians around the world, after the streaming giant revealed that none of the top ten most streamed tracks on its platform were by women.

In Scotland, Smirnoff remains the most popular vodka brand in the on-trade.

3. Guinness, Diageo  


TO say the new Guinness font looks distinctive is something of an understatement.

The grandiose, harp-shaped fixture – which was launched earlier this year – should leave customers in no doubt as to whether the outlet they’ve walked into stocks the ‘black stuff’.

Meanwhile, Diageo continues to leverage the Guinness brand through the expanding ‘Open Gate’ range of craft-style beers.

4. Captain Morgan, Diageo  

Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold

GIVEN the well-known Scottish sweet-tooth, it should be no surprise that Captain Morgan continues to rule the high seas of the rum category.

This year Diageo enlisted UK grime artist Lady Leshurr for a sizeable campaign to promote responsible drinking via social media.

In a song penned for the campaign titled Live Like a Captain, Leshurr examined the pitfalls of excessive drinking.

5. Carling, Molson Coors  

Pint of Carling

THE biggest-selling beer in the UK overall, and the second-biggest in Scotland, Carling continues to be a powerhouse brand in bars and pubs.

This summer Molson Coors stole a march on some of its rivals during the CO2 shortage because the firm’s high-tech Burton on Trent facility produces its own CO2, meaning production of its flagship lager could continue.

6. Belhaven Best, Greene King  

Belhaven Brewery

IT’S shaping up to be a busy year for Belhaven.

In May the Dunbar brewery – which will turn 300 next year – was awarded the highest rating for food safety by the British Retail Consortium.

This was followed a month later by the launch of a new marketing campaign for Best which saw the brand owner introduce a £25,000 bursary for Scottish folk musicians.

7. Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Asahi UK  

Hexagon Peroni Glass

THIS year brand owner Asahi UK has been looking to reinforce Peroni’s style credentials through a campaign offering support to fashion designers.

The brand’s Fashion Studio campaign offers up-and-coming designers the chance to win a place on a mentorship programme as well as residency in a fashion studio space in London.

The brand’s distinctive glassware has also just had an overhaul, with new-look branded glasses headed to pubs later in 2018, along with new, curvier bottles.

8. Gordon’s, Diageo  

Gordon's pink gin

THE biggest player in a booming market, Gordon’s has moved up the rankings on this year’s list to eighth place.

Diageo has continued to invest in the brand in the past year, with the introduction of a new pink gin.

With more and more gin brands entering the market, the current boom seems to be treating Gordon’s well.

9. Kopparberg, Kopparberg UK  

Kopparberg Black

KOPPARBERG this year launched an on-trade exclusive cider in the shape of Kopparberg Black.

The new draught cider – a blend of apple, blackcurrant and blackberry flavours – appeared at a number of festivals throughout the summer and was also promoted as part of a £6 million marketing spend on the wider Kopparberg brand.

The ongoing investment from the Swedish cider maker appears to be paying off, as Kopparberg has moved up the rankings this year to become the best-selling cider brand in Scotland’s bars and pubs, according to CGA’s data.

10. Stella Artois, AB InBev  

Stella glass

ONE of the first continental lagers to become a household name in Scotland, Stella Artois continues to be a heavy-hitter in Scotland’s bars and pubs.

A new food-pairing campaign was trialed in pubs this year, which offered customers a bowl of Halkidiki olives with every pint of Stella they purchased.

The goal, said the firm, was to promote a more continental experience that tied into the brand’s Belgian roots.

11. Foster’s, Heineken  

Fosters glasses

THE first of several Heineken brands to appear at the top end of this year’s list, Foster’s just narrowly misses out on a space in the top ten.

An on-trade campaign for Foster’s celebrated ‘Foster’s Fridays’, and gave pub customers the chance to win cash prizes via a scratchcard promotion.

12. Strongbow, Heineken  


STRONGBOW may have dipped a little in this year’s Top Brands list, but Heineken’s flagship cider remains a go-to pint for many pub-goers around the country.

Heineken carries out on-trade activity for Strongbow throughout the year, with Halloween, in particular, becoming a ‘Strongbow event’ through the use of promotional materials.

13. Jack Daniel’s, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands  

Jack Daniel's No.7

MR Jack retains his position as the most popular whisk(e)y in the Scottish on-trade, managing to appeal to everyone from music fans to cocktail aficionados.

But the good people of Lynchburg, Tennessee, don’t rest on their laurels and Jack Daniel’s continues to release new products, such as the recently introduced Tennessee Rye whiskey.

14. Deuchars IPA, Heineken  

CALEDONIAN Brewery’s most famous son, Deuchars IPA, was popular with discerning beer fans long before anyone had heard of ‘craft beer’.

The Heineken-owned brand retains its position on the list this year – no mean feat given the growing competition from the many beers with ‘IPA’ in their names.

Caledonian brews a range of different beers, but Deuchars is the brewery’s best-loved export.

15. The Famous Grouse, The Edrington Group  

THE Famous Grouse has been a fixture in Scotland’s pubs since the 19th century, making it one of the older names on this list.

But the team behind the brand continues to innovate. This year Edrington-Beam Suntory – formerly Maxxium UK – expanded the range with the introduction of new, ‘everyday premium’ whiskies.

16. Corona Extra, AB InBev  

17. Heineken Premium, Heineken  

18. Absolut, Pernod Ricard  

19. John Smith’s, Heineken  

20. Jägermeister, Mast-Jaegermeister  

21. Moët & Chandon, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy  

22. Strongbow Dark Fruit, Heineken  

23. Caledonia Best, C&C Group  

24. Bacardi, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands  

25. Whyte & Mackay, Whyte & Mackay  

26. Bombay Sapphire, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands  

27. Coors Light, Molson Coors  

28. Magners Original, C&C Group  

29. Tanqueray, Diageo  

30. Carlsberg, Carlsberg Group  

31. Kronenburg 1664, Heineken  

32. Sourz, Edrington-Beam Suntory UK  

33. Miller Genuine Draft, Molson Coors 

34. Magners, C&C Group  

35. Johnnie Walker, Diageo  


36. Rekorderlig  

37. Birra Moretti  

38. Amstel  

39. Baileys  

40. Innis & Gunn Lager  

41. Budweiser  

42. Glen’s  

43. Hendrick’s  

44. Staropramen  

45. Courvoisier  

46. Luxardo  

47. WKD  

48. Heverlee  

49. Crabbies  

50. Fantinel  

51. Amaretto Disaronno  

52. Oliver & Greg‘s  

53. Grey Goose  

54. Eristoff  

55. VK  

56. Russian Standard  


57. Jose Cuervo  

58. Brewdog Punk IPA  

59. Estrella Damm  

60. Somersby Cider  

61. Bell’s  

62. Stowells  

63. Beefeater  

64. Veuve Clicquot  

65. Footsteps  

66. Bulmers  

67. Budweiser 4.3  

68. Southern Comfort  

69. Sailor Jerry  

70. Havana  

71. Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger liqueur  

72. Hop House 13  

73. Perrier-Jouët  

74. Williams Brothers Joker IPA  

75. Smirnoff Ice