Shock as hand sanitiser is 2020’s top-selling alcohol category

Graphic: Rob 'squeaky clean' Johnson

Forget pink gin, flavoured vodka and blended scotch, the biggest selling alcohol category of the last 12 months is one that barely even existed a couple of years ago: hand sanitiser.

According to figures released by the Team of Statistical Scrutineers (TOSS) it increased by an astonishing 6,500% in 2020, making it the fastest growing alcohol category ever.

‘We’ve never seen a surge like it,’ said Dr Ria Tailing who carried out the research. ‘Though the early years of the craft gin explosion run it close.’

Sani afternoon

The ‘sani’ category has been around for a long time. But until recently was consumed only by medical professionals and germaphobes, making it even more niched than sherry. Coronavirus, however, catapulted it into the mainstream.

‘Suddenly sanitiser wasn’t just clean, it was cool,’ said Dr Tailing. ‘Even if people didn’t really like the taste they felt they had to buy it to show they were on trend.

‘A bit like sour beers or natural wine.’

Sani not Dirty

By the middle of last year, millions of people had uploaded Instaposts of themselves making ‘San and Tonics’, ‘Santinis’ and ‘Saneracs’. By contrast, postings of Dirty Martinis were down to almost zero.

‘Sani-Drinks are the best!’ said influencer Shomi Sum Cache. ‘They taste amazing, and whole ‘straight from your hands’ serving ritual is so exciting and authentic. I don’t know how I survived without them. Can I have my cheque now?’

Tastemakers have described aloe vera as ‘the flavour of 2020’, ‘the next big botanical’ and ‘the AV in your ABV’.

Partner brands

Diageo estimates that 25% of all its sales worldwide last year came from hand sanitiser, with newly created ‘partner brands’ like Sanqueray and Germoff running in parallel with existing ‘big brother’ gins and vodkas.

‘We were just lucky that our products lent themselves so easily to weak puns,’ said the company’s head of marketing, Cam Payne.

‘Though squaring the sale of 80% abv miniatures with our ‘responsible drinking’ commitments was a bigger challenge than drinking a whole glass of Baileys.’

Lo/No a go-go?

One of the most significant elements concerning the grown of Sani drinks is what it might mean for the Lo and No category.  

‘For years we thought that Gen Z’s embrace of health and wellness was inevitably taking them away from alcohol,’ said Dr Tailing. ‘Which is why the market is currently flooded with crap drinks at zero abv.

‘But if the Sani trend has proved one thing it’s that most people actually prefer holistic virtue signalling when it’s accompanied with a good slug of industrial-strength alcohol.

‘And frankly it still tastes better than Seedlip.’

For any terminally gullible people reading this, Fake Booze would like to clarify that it is not recommending actual consumption of hand sanitiser. This is nearly as bad an idea as injecting yourself with bleach.

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