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Beer sales not quite as shit as they have been lately

Every quarter, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) releases a quarterly ‘beer barometer’ that gives you a snapshot of how beer sales are doing in the UK.

As you’re probably aware, UK beer sales have been tanking over the last few years, and this has put the much-criticised BBPA in a difficult position. As the body representing British brewing interests it should be a cheerleader for the industry, actively promoting beer. But increasingly it sounds like a doom-monger, doing more than any other organisation to give the impression that no one is drinking beer or going to the pub any more.
Fortunately, the latest figures – while not exactly positive – are significantly less shit than they have been recently, and this has allowed the BBPA to take a welcome, slightly more upbeat tone.
The headline of the press release is “Beer starts to shake off recession slump”. The key figures are:
  • Total beer sales down 3.6% in October to December 2009, the lowest 4th quarter fall since 2006
  • Beer sales for the whole of 2009 fell by 4.2%, compared with 5.5% for 2008
  • Sales in pubs and bars for the final quarter of 09 were down 5% – compared with 9% in 2008
  • Beer was down in supermarkets and shops in the final quarter by 2.1%, compared with 6.4% in 2008
  • However, over the year a a while, off-trade beer sakes were down 3.1% – the largest annual fall since records began in 1978. This at least raises questions about the received wisdom that the main problem facing pubs is cheap beer in supermarkets
  • Based on these figures, despite Alastair “A barman nicked my girlfriend when I was 18 and my entire economic policy is based on extracting a slow and humiliating revenge from an industry I have learned to hate” Darling having raised duty on beer by more than 20 fucking per cent in the last two years, and having done so purely as a revenue raising measure (anti-binge drinking etc was not a consideration), government revenues from beer have in fact fallen by an estimated £258 million. Nice one, Thunderbirds-boy.

So. People are drinking less beer, and it’s looking like the recession has been a key cause of that. But as BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds comments, “As the economy moves into recovery, so will the beer and pub sector. In fact, as in previous recessions, it may emerge first and fastest.”

But Simmonds also warns “What is certain is that any recovery could be thrown off course and destabilised by Government intervention on tax or regulation. What is equally certain is that any move by Government to increase beer tax further this year would be very damaging and place pubs and jobs at greater risk.”

Come on Alastair, get over it. It was a long time ago. Let her go.



Lars Marius Garshol

What would be really interesting would be to see how the craft beer segment is doing. I suspect there is no such official category in the UK, which is a shame. In the US it's been fairly consistent for the last years that beer sales fall overall and craft beer sales rise overall.

The Norwegian brewer's association does not track craft beers separately (even though this would be trivial), but my feeling is that figures would say the same here.


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