Top Brands 2019

The ongoing gin boom is just one of the big changes in this year’s list

Top brands 2018

THERE’S a cat amongst the pigeons at the top end of this year’s Top Brands list as Gordon’s – which last year was only just inside the top ten – rockets up to third place.

The brand’s performance will no doubt be music to Diageo’s ears as the company now owns all but one of the five biggest-selling drinks brands in Scotland’s pubs and bars. But it’s also indicative of something much bigger: the ongoing gin boom.

In fact, the value of the spirit has increased to such an extent that it’s now worth more than Scotch whisky in the Scottish on-trade – something that would have been unthinkable only a handful of years ago.

A little further down the top ten there’s been another upset, with Peroni overtaking Carling to become Scotland’s second-biggest on-trade lager brand.

Peroni was bought by Japanese drinks firm Asahi in 2016 following the mega-merger between AB InBev and SABMiller and the new owner appears to be working wonders with the brand.

Overall, 2018 to 2019 has been a strong year for on-trade alcohol sales, with revenues increasing from around £2.3 billion to £2.4bn.

As in previous years, the Top Brands list was compiled by data from CGA’s market measurement service, OPM. OPM currently uses a sample of 481 premises to represent the on-trade in Scotland and combines field research and sales data from a range of outlets, wholesalers and distributors.

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In conjunction with CGA

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 list.

Top Brands 2019 Categories

High Flyers
Imported Whiskey
Low and No Alcohol Beer


1. Tennent’s Lager, C&C Group  


WHILE the rest of the Top Brands list – and even the rest of the top ten – is subject to change, the top spot is never really in question.

Tennent’s Lager continues to reign supreme as the most valuable drinks brand in Scotland’s pubs and bars. In the past year Tennent’s has opened its new visitor centre at Wellpark, continued with its Tennent’s Lager Care training programme and presented more of its golden cans to, among others, footballer Andy Robertson and YouTube star Jamie Genevieve. C&C Group’s takeover of wholesaler Matthew Clark probably didn’t hurt either.

2. Smirnoff, Diageo  


SMIRNOFF could be hailed as something of a ‘quiet giant’ in Scotland. The brand, which is consistently the biggest-selling spirit in the Scottish on-trade, hasn’t announced much in the way of trade activity in the past year, but this doesn’t seem to have held it back.

Diageo did expand the Smirnoff brand, however, with the launch of Smirnoff Infusions – a blend of Smirnoff vodka and fruit flavours at a lower strength of 23% ABV. The drinks were showcased at this year’s Smirnoff Bar at the TRNSMT festival.

3.Gordon’s, Diageo  

THE big story of this year’s Top Brands list, and the big beast of the UK gin sector, Gordon’s has been catapulted up the top ten to become the third-biggest brand on the list.

The range now includes pink, elderflower and sloe gins as well as premixed variants.

But it’s the original London Dry that will be most familiar to operators and consumers alike. The bottle remains a fixture on back-bars across Scotland.

4. Guinness, Diageo  

GUINNESS may have fallen a place on this year’s list to make way for its Diageo stablemate, but the super-size stout – one of the world’s biggest beer brands – remains a powerhouse in the Scottish trade.

Continued sponsorship of the Six Nations helped keep the brand’s profile up in the past year, and Diageo catered to venues with limited or no cellar space with the launch of Hydra-Flux, a dispense system designed specifically for the Guinness portfolio.





5. Captain Morgan, Diageo  

IT has been speculated for some time whether rum might be the next spirit in line for the kind of popularity boost currently being seen in gin.

Like gin, rum is a popular base for cocktails and is well-suited to a wide range of serves.

And Diageo is well-placed for any rum boom with Captain Morgan, which is already the biggest-selling rum brand in Scotland’s pubs.

Could future years see Captain Morgan leapfrog some of its Diageo sister brands to move further up the Top Brands list?

Only time will tell.



6. Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Asahi UK  

A TRIUMPHANT year for the team behind Peroni Nastro Azzurro in the UK, as the brand becomes the second-biggest lager in Scotland’s pubs and bars.

Asahi continues to leverage Peroni’s Italian heritage, and a recent ad campaign for the brand played with the theme of Italian style.

Other activity for the brand has included the introduction of Peroni Libera 0.0%, an alcohol-free version of the beer which is said to have a similar taste to the flagship Nastro Azzurro product.

Meanwhile, Peroni has gained some new siblings this year after Asahi bought British brewer Fuller’s, which included the Dark Star and Meantime beer ranges.


7. Carling, Molson Coors  

DOWN but very far from out, the UK’s biggest-selling lager continues to be a force to be reckoned with in Scotland.

The year began with a multi-million pound advertising campaign for Carling which heralded the brand’s British roots, while the summer saw the introduction of a new pint glass, designed to be easier to carry.

This has been a year of consolidation for Carling in Scotland after Molson Coors ended a distribution agreement with wholesaler Matthew Clark. Look for the English giant to come back strong in 2020.



8. Belhaven Best, Belhaven/Greene King  

THIS is a huge year for Belhaven as the brewery marks its tricentenary, and flagship beer Belhaven Best is likely to benefit.

The brewery itself, which has produced Best since 1991, has had its visitor facilities upgraded and events are taking place throughout the year to mark the occasion – including a beer and music festival in the brewery grounds which will take place on September 21.





9. Stella Artois, Budweiser Brewing Group UK  

QUALITY has been key for Stella Artois this year, with the launch of on-trade initiative, Draught Masters.

The programme, launched in conjunction with accreditation scheme Beer Marque, is designed to raise cellar management, dispense and service standards across the trade.

Stella, one of the first continental lagers to make a mark here in Scotland, continues to be a popular bar-call in pubs around the country.




10. Foster’s, Heineken  

FOSTER’S was the subject of a huge advertising push from parent company Heineken this year, with Antipodean agony uncles Brad and Dan providing fresh advice to nervy Brits via their phone-in show.



11. Kopparberg, Kopparberg UK  

KOPPARBERG has been at the forefront of the UK’s cider industry for some time, and although the core brand has been quieter in 2019, this year has seen the company diversify into another booming category: gin.

Taking inspiration from the brand’s most popular cider, Kopparberg’s gin has been infused with a strawberry and lime flavour, which fits into the growing demand for fruit-flavoured gins.





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

THE first spirits brand to appear on the list that isn’t owned by Diageo, Jack Daniel’s has had its profile heightened with activity that’s included the Tennessee Rivals cocktail competition.

This is the last year JD will be listed under Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands, after the US giants Bacardi and Brown-Forman announced they will go their separate ways from 2020.






13. Strongbow, Heineken  

STRONGBOW actually has two listings in the Top Brands list, with the brand’s Dark Fruit variant sitting just a few places behind its original cider.

This year brand owner Heineken launched a Strongbow marketing campaign which celebrated British pubs and introduced a new dual font which dispenses both Strongbow variants.






14. The Famous Grouse, Edrington-Beam Suntory  

WHILE overall sales of Scotch whisky in Scotland’s bars and pubs are said to have dipped over the past year, it seems to have been a solid 12 months for Scotland’s biggest-selling Scotch whisky.

Late last year The Famous Grouse owner Edrington Group sold Glenturret Distillery – former home of The Famous Grouse visitor centre – but the brand itself remains as high profile as ever, through a variety of sponsorships as well as its annual festive advertising campaign.





15. Corona Extra, Budweiser Brewing Group UK  

HAVE the recent spells of sunshine helped grow sales of Corona?

It’s certainly conceivable, given that Corona is one of the most consistently popular beers in sunny weather.

But if the brand’s popularity relied on sunshine alone, it’s unlikely it would be the15th biggest drinks brand in Scotland’s pubs. The fact it’s an easy-drinking, well-known lager with widespread distribution is more likely to be the answer.





16. Strongbow Dark Fruit  

17. Moët & Chandon  

18. Coors Light  

19. Heineken  

20. Magners Original  

21. John Smith’s  

22. Deuchars IPA,  

23. Absolut  

24. Caledonia Best,  

25. Tanqueray  

26. Bacardi,  

27. Birra Moretti  

28. Whyte & Mackay  

29. Innis & Gunn Lager  

30. Jägermeister  

31. Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger liqueur  

32. Bombay Sapphire  

33. Johnnie Walker  

34. Luxardo  

35. Kronenbourg 1664  

36. Amstel  

37. Hendrick’s  

38. Sourz  

39. Baileys  

40. Carlsberg