Soy milk, gin, and puzzles for adults are hot in the UK right now, statistically speaking

Pass the gin!
Pass the gin!
Image: Reuters/Russell Cheyne
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All over the UK Brits seem to be de-stressing with gin and jigsaw puzzles en masse. Who can blame them? After all, these are trying times.

The country’s consumption of gin and playing of puzzles has caught the attention of the nation’s statisticians. Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced the annual reshuffle (pdf) of goods and services it tracks in consumer price indexes. These technical tweaks are a good guide to the changing habits and tastes of Brits, because measures of inflation aren’t useful if they don’t measure what people are actually buying. When a trend fizzles out enough for government statisticians to notice, it is truly over.

This year, gin replaced the generic “spirit-based drink” in the official inflation shopping basket. While gin has long been a British tipple of choice, it reached an impressive milestone last year: annual sales rose by 16%, crossing the £1 billion ($1.2 billion) barrier for the first time. The UK’s number crunchers also reintroduced jigsaw puzzles to the basket, but this time as an adult hobby, reflecting a growing trend of mindful (or mindless) activities grownups turn to for escapism. (Coloring books are surely coming soon.)

Non-diary milk drinks are another addition this year, thanks to all those soya latte and almond flat white drinkers. The other trends? Half chocolate-coated biscuits are in and cycle helmets are back. Children’s scooters are in but swings are out. Cans of apple ciders replace bottled cider, but bottles of flavored cider were added to the basket. Menthol cigarettes are out, in preparation for law banning flavored cigarettes from 2020.

The ONS has built a nifty online tool tracking changes to the 700 or so items in the inflation basket since 1947.

Last year, lemons, single-use coffee pods, woman’s leggings and nail varnish were added. CD-ROMs and rewritable DVDs were kicked off the list, as were nightclub entry fees, as the UK’s clubbing culture fades. In 2015, food featured heavily— sweet potatoes, craft beer, and liver (back on the list for the first time since 1999) were all added.

Some other notable additions and subtractions over the years:

  • 2010: Garlic bread replaces pita bread. Blu-ray is in, disposable cameras are out
  • 2005: Mobile phones and laptops are in, camcorders are out
  • 2001: Mayonnaise replaces salad cream. Mini-disc players are in (briefly)
  • 1997: CD players are in
  • 1987: Muesli and vermouth are in. Microwaves and VHS are also added, but cassette recorders are out
  • 1976: Cassette recorders are in
  • 1962: Refrigerators and fish fingers—a national treasure that remains in the basket—are in
  • 1956: Washing machines first added
  • 1947: Vacuum cleaners and men’s three-piece suits are in