The post-recession years have been challenging for the UK beer market, with sales dropping by over 500 million litres between 2009 and 2013 alone. However after five consecutive years of decline, new research from Mintel has found that overall volume sales of beer are expected to rebound in 2014, increasing by 1.3% to an estimated 4.24 bn litres in 2014.

And Mintel’s research shows that it is Britain’s love of lager that continues to drive the market, with volume sales of the beverage rising by an estimated 1.7% in 2014, up to a predicted 3.17 bn litres. While ale sales have also been ascending, up from 885 mn litres in 2013 to an estimated 891 mn litres in 2014, stout sales continue to slide, predicted to fall to 183 mn litres 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 football 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.”

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

When it comes to beer preferences, over half (54%) of Brits drank lager in the six months to September 2014, whilst a quarter (26%) opted for ale and one in five (21%) drank bitter. Moreover, one in five Brits (20%) have drunk craft beer in the past six months, rising to almost a third (31%) of 25-34s and 24% of 18-24s.

Indeed, craft still seems to be driving premiumisation in the category as a third (34%) of beer drinkers say they would be prepared to pay more for craft beers, rising to 43% among 25-34s. However, Mintel’s research also shows that over a third (36%) are unsure what the term ‘craft beer’ actually means. It does however seem that there is scope for education, as 31% say they would like to understand more about beer, for instance how to serve it and the ingredients which are used.

“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. 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.” Chris comments.

However, while 2014 might have seen a hop in the beer sector’s step, sales of cider were less fruitful. Indeed, volume sales of cider are surprisingly expected to fall by 0.8% to 949 mn litres in 2014, down from 957 mn litres in 2013. Further to this, value sales are expected to grow by just 1% in 2014, rising to £3.05 bn. This is in stark contrast to the robust growth the category has experienced in previous years, with value sales rising by 10% in 2012 and 6% in 2013.

Mintel’s research shows that 57% of UK consumers drank cider in the 12 months to October 2014, with more than two in five (44%) drinking apple, 31% pear, and 29% fruit-flavoured cider. The craft segment is considerably less developed in cider than it is in beer, but 14% of Brits still reported to have drunk a craft cider within the last year.

“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.” Chris comments.

Furthermore, whilst retail value sales of apple cider are expected to dip by 1% in 2014, pear is estimated to have plummeted by 29%. In contrast, fruit-flavoured ciders have soared, rising by just over a third in value.

“Fruit-flavoured cider benefits from being seen as a fashionable and innovative segment of the market, two attributes which have been key in driving growth by appealing to Millennials in particular. ” Chris concludes.

Press review copies of the Beer UK 2014 report and interviews with Senior Drinks Analyst, Chris Wisson, are available on request from the press office.

 

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