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19th November 2021

Brits turned to wine and spirits when pubs closed in 2020 lockdowns

Total beer sales fell by 14.2% in 2020 due to pandemic and lockdowns, new BBPA data reveals

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, has today revealed that Brits drank more wine and spirits – but less beer – during the 2020 lockdowns.

The finding comes from new data published by the BBPA in its latest 2021 Statistical Handbook – a ‘must read’ for anyone with an interest in the UK drinks sector.

During the lockdowns of 2020, the percentage share of alcohol consumed through wine in the UK increased by 2 percentage points.

Over the same period, the percentage share of alcohol consumed through beer decreased by 4 percentage points – with total beer sales in 2020 falling by 14.2%.

It means that during 2020 and the height of the pandemic and lockdowns, Brits consumed 33% of their alcohol through beer and another 33% through wine, compared to 37% for just beer and 31% for just wine in 2019.

Over the same period, Brits consumed 26% of their alcohol from spirits, up 2 percentage points from 2019.

According to the BBPA, the key reason behind the shift in drinking habits during the pandemic was due to the forced closure of pubs, which led to Brits consuming wine and spirits bought from supermarkets and shops instead of draught beer bought over the pub bar. Typically, 7 in 10 alcoholic drinks served in a pub are beer.

The trade association says the data shows how crucial pubs are to encouraging moderate consumption of alcohol through draught beer, which is on average 4.2% ABV.

It also said the numbers demonstrated the damage of lockdowns to brewers, who lost a key route to market when pubs were forced to close during the lockdowns of 2020.

At the recent Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled changes to modernise the alcohol duty regime in the UK to better incentivise the consumption of lower-strength drinks such as lower alcohol beer. This, the BBPA hopes, will aid British beer in growing market share once more, along with the reopening of pubs in 2021 where consumers are more likely to choose beer on draught over wine or spirits.    

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:

“Lockdowns and the shutting of pubs in 2020 meant Brits drank more wine and spirits, but less beer, than in previous years.

“With the pubs closed, its clear people turned to wine and spirits from shops and supermarkets rather than beer. Because of this, overall beer sales in 2020 fell by 14.2%. In short, sales in supermarkets didn’t make up for sales lost from closed pubs.

“It goes to show that when people visit the pub they primarily drink beer, which on average is 4.2% ABV, the lowest strength alcohol category and so ideal for moderate consumption. It is great to see the Chancellor recognise this and promote lower strength alcohol drinks with his changes to the UK alcohol duty regime announced in the recent Budget.

“With pubs open and trading again in 2021, we hope customers will revert to choosing a beer at their local – a safe and managed space at the heart of communities throughout the UK.”

Notes to Editors

All statistics used in this press release are in the latest BBPA Statistical Handbook 2021 – available here.

Press release from BBPA