A new report from Euromonitor has reported that cautious optimism prevailed in the beverage alcohol market in 2011, with "consistently improving" volume performances seen across all key categories.

However, the uneven nature of the recovery and the "unabated consumer-driven momentum towards economising and value-for-money propositions" meant that categories associated with lower-end positioning showed the most sustained improvement, according to Euromonitor's Passport report, Alcoholic Drinks 2011 Part 2.

Economy lager, sparkling wine and brandy have all benefited from consumers migrating from more upmarket "siblings", particularly in largely stagnant Western markets, the report stated.

By category, the RTD (ready-to-drink) sector was the "the biggest winner", benefiting particularly from more consumers drinking more at home.

Meanwhile, cider continued to post gains on the back of innovative launches and strong promotional support. Craft beers continue to be a growth area for beer in otherwise mature markets, so much so that the report suggests establishing a foothold in this segment "will become a necessity, rather than a risky strategy" for the major brewing groups going forward.

While the performance of Western European markets had "heavily constrained" the spirits sector, the category registered further growth on the back of emerging markets and resurgent demand in North America. Wine saw a "mixed regional performance", with gains largely attributable to China.