After a weekend of vodka and pancakes celebrating Maslenitsa, it is worth reflecting on the latest Wine and Spirit Trade Association statistics that say overall sales of wine and spirits are continuing to fall in shops, pubs and restaurants.

The WSTA Market Report draws on data and analysis from Nielsen, CGA Strategy and the Wilson Drinks Report.

The data reveals that supermarket total volume sales have continued to slide, down between 3% and 4% a year. In pubs and restaurants, on-trade volume sales were down 4%, largely due to falling beer sales.

Bucking the trend

However, there is one statistic that brings a sparkle to the eye of many a Russian.

In the spirits category, sales of vodka stand out as the best off-trade performer over the year, with volume sales up 3%. It may sound small, but it is significant.

And vodka continued to be Britain’s favourite spirit, according to a study by Vinexpo.

The figures suggest Britain’s consumption of the spirit currently stands at 108 million bottles (nine million cases).

In the United States, vodka sales of 62 million cases make up approx. 35% of the spirits market by volume according to Nielsen.

In Brazil, Chile and Argentina, there has been a phenomenal increase in vodka consumption by 14%, 56% and 21% respectively by volume in the last three years, according to IWSR.

Vodka in good spirits

As with gin, the outsider might be surprised how well the vodka market has held up despite the global economic concerns.

Whereas the consumer traded down or simply purchased smaller volumes in many countries at the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008, there is now some stability with good returns being achieved at the top end.

Vodka history

Vodka is a drink which originated in Eastern Europe, the name stemming from the Russian word 'voda' meaning water.

The first documented production of vodka in Russia was at the end of the 9th century, but the first known distillery at, Khylnovsk, was about two hundred years later as reported in the Vyatka Chronicle of 1174.

Russian Alcohol - owned by a Russian company called CEDC - is the largest producer of vodka and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages in Russia.

Since its creation in 2003, the company has grown to become a leader in the Russian spirits industry.

Why the Green Mark?

Russian Alcohol’s flagship brand, Green Mark (Zelenaya Marka), is the largest vodka brand by volume in Russia, and one of the top five globally.

Hayley Aldous, Senior Brand Manager at First Drinks, which imports Green Mark into the UK, told VoR: “The key difference Green Mark brings to the UK vodka market is true Russian authenticity.

“In the 1920s, the Russian government appointed an organization called Glavspirttrest to supervise high quality vodka distillation in the Soviet Union.

“Only the recipes that reached the highest standard of excellence were awarded the coveted ‘Green Mark’ seal of quality approval. This is where Green Mark gets its name and recipe.”

So it’s nice to know that in a global recession, where global alcohol volumes are falling, sales of Russian vodka are bucking the trend with healthy sales.

Za vashe zdorovie!