AC Nielsen's Christmas Best Sellers survey will be published this week, with value for money once more dominating the market and the RTD sector delivering the most impressive growth.

Julian Hunt, editor (designate) of The Grocer, where the findings will be published, said: "Pricing was again the key feature of the Christmas drinks market - which meant the consumer was the real winner." 

Stella maintained its place as the biggest drinks brand at Christmas, but the rapid growth it has enjoyed in recent years has slowed. While Carling and Foster's have built impressive volume and value growth on the back of competitive pricing. 

Keen pricing over the Christmas period has also ensured that Baileys maintained its strong growth in the spirits sector, while New World wine brands have continued to outperform other more traditional wines. The fastest growing brand being Percy Fox's Californian range Blossom Hill, with sales up by 96%.

However, the performance of these three categories were once again eclipsed by premium packaged spirits which have continued to take market share from the more established drinks products. FAB's have seen their sales increase by 33%, the top performing brand within this sector being WKD, with a growth of 258%.

Peter Crean, business manager of ACNielsen says, "Ultimately the consumer has been the biggest winner over the Christmas period as many of their favourite brands were available at almost incredibly low prices. These prices have played a large part in driving the growth but they have inevitably compromised margins for both suppliers and retailers".

As thoughts and plans turn to Christmas 2002 can we expect more of the same and perhaps even lower prices? "Yes", says Crean, "alcohol will continue to be used by the major grocery retailers as a means of driving their own overall performance".