After five years of falling demand – with sales plummeting by 500M litres between 2009 and 2013 – overall volume sales of beer are expected to rebound this year, rising by 1.3% to reach an estimated 4.24bn litres.
Mintel senior drinks analyst Chris Wisson said the recession was just one of the factors that had flattened demand. “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,” said Wisson.
‘Sales finally bounce back’
“However, 2014 has seen volume sales finally bounce back into growth, buoyed by a warm summer and the football World Cup. While 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.”
Britons’ love of lager continued to drive the market, with sales rising by an estimated 1.7% this year, to a predicted 3.17bn litres. Ale sales have also climbed, up from 885M litres last year to an estimated 891M litres. But stout sales continued to fall, to a predicted 183M litres this year.
More than half (54%) of consumers drank lager in the six months to September 2014, while a quarter preferred ale and one-in-five (21%) drank bitter. Over the same period, one-in-five reported drinking craft beer, rising to nearly a third (31%) of 25-34s and 24% of 18-24s.
Craft beer appears to be driving premiumisation in the category, as a third (34%) of beer drinkers said they would pay more for craft beers, rising to 43% among 25-34s. But 36% were unsure what the term ‘craft beer’ meant.
“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 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.”
But cider proved a loser, with volume sales predicted to fall by 0.8% to 949M litres, down from 957M litres last year. Value sales were expected to grow by just 1% this year to reach £3.05bn, compared with growth of 10% in 2012 and 6% in 2013.
“Despite the significant recent growth of the cider category, volume sales are surprisingly estimated to dip slightly in 2014. Some of cider’s momentum appears to have been lost to a rejuvenated beer category, which is seeing strong growth from various segments such as craft and world/global beers,” said Wisson.
- Lager – 54% of Brits
- Ale – 26%
- Bitter – 21%
Source: Mintel, based on purchases over the six months to September