Beer makes a comeback in 2014

Craft beers have helped draw more drinkers back to pubs. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Craft beers have helped draw more drinkers back to pubs. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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THE beleaguered beer market, which has been hit by pub closures and squeezed consumer spending, is thought to have enjoyed a comeback this year, according to a study of alcohol sales in 2014.

Overall volume sales of beer are thought to have rebounded in the past 12 months, increasing by 1.3 per cent to an estimated 4.24 billion litres in 2014, a study from Mintel has revealed.

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Experts said that a large number of sporting events, such as the football World Cup in Brazil, had boosted sales over the past 12 months after a five-year period of steady decline.

In Scotland, industry experts have warned that as many as three pubs were closing each week in the wake of the ­recession, as consumers’ disposable income dropped and drinkers opted to enjoy more shop-bought beer at home – although the number of closures is believed to have slowed over the past year.

The research shows that ­demand for lager has continued to drive the market, with ­volume sales of the beverage ­rising by an estimated 1.7 per cent in 2014.

Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, said: “Pressures on household finances, health concerns and competition from other markets have led to significant volume sales decline over the past five years for the beer market.

“However, 2014 has seen volume sales finally bounce back into growth, buoyed by a warm summer and the World Cup.

“Whilst much of the market’s recent value growth has been driven by inflation and the now-defunct beer tax escalator, successive 1p cuts on the tax on pints and the slowdown in the cider market bode well for beer’s improving fortunes.”

When it comes to beer preferences, more than half of people surveyed drank lager in the six months to September 2014, whilst a quarter opted for ale and one in five drank bitter.

But the trend for “craft beer” has also boosted sales, the report said.

One in five people surveyed said they had drunk craft beer in the past six months, rising to almost a third of 25-34s and 24 per cent of 18-24s.

A third of beer drinkers said they would be prepared to pay more for craft beers, rising to 43 per cent among 25-34s.

However, the research also shows that over a third are unsure what the term “craft beer” actually means.

“Whilst craft beer is often defined on grounds of volume production, the segment has instead come to encapsulate an ethos and benchmark for producing high-quality or different types of beers,” said Mr Wisson.

“Rather than just stating that they are a craft beer, brewers should clearly state how they justify this positioning, for example via their small production batches or use of unique or interesting ingredients.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, welcomed the figures.

“There is no doubt that we have seen a resurgence,” he said. “We are reaping the benefits of the enthusiasm for craft beer. That enthusiasm has permeated to other aspects of the pub trade. Pubs have had to provide more for people to get them out of their houses where they are drinking beer and back into pubs.”

However, while beer has enjoyed a resurgence, cider, which has previously seen strong growth, is set to fall back this year, Mintel found. Volume sales of cider are expected to drop by 0.8 per cent in 2014. Further to this, value sales are expected to grow by just 1 per cent in 2014, rising to £3.05 billion.

This is in stark contrast to the robust growth the category has experienced in previous years, with value sales rising by 6 per cent in 2013.

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