Economists raise a glass to beer drinkers

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Britain's beer drinkers can serve as role models for the nation as it struggles to emerge from recession, according to a study published today.

• TV presenter Melanie Sykes has supported Camra campaigns to publicise Britain's beers Picture: David Parry/PA

The country's real ale fans represent the perfect example of how greater consumer awareness can revitalise a struggling industry, say economists.

Experts at Nottingham University Business School came up with the findings after examining the history of brewing south of the Border.

They believe the industry's rebirth in the wake of the Campaign for Real Ale's founding in 1971 has implications for much of the UK economy.

Professor Peter Swann, the study's author, said: "The fact is that the business world can learn an enormous amount from our beer buffs. The range of products and the number of breweries declined dramatically between 1900 and 1970. That process began to reverse with the formation of Camra.

"This has led us to the position we're in now, with hundreds of small breweries spread all over the country and making thousands of different beers."

Swann added: "In technical terms, this represents horizontal product differentiation and a reduction in the importance of the economies of scale. That's basically a clever way of saying variety is the spice of life and that more discerning tastes can be good for the economy."

At the start of the 20th century, even many villages had breweries. But by 1970, the number of breweries in England was just 141 - compared to 1,324 in 1900.

But Camra raised consumer awareness and gradually ushered in a new era. By 2004 the number of breweries in England stood at 480.