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20th February 2012

Is it last orders for lager as bottled ale achieves double digit growth?

Marston’s, the UK’s largest Premium Bottled Ale(PBA) producer, has released the 3rd annual PBA Market Report and identified further opportunities for significant growth, with British bottled ale benefiting from shifts in consumer patterns and legislative changes which will further curb lager volumes.

 In its report, Marston’s highlights a category once again in significant volume (+11% MAT)* and value (12% MAT)* growth against a backdrop of consumers becoming increasingly selective in their buying habits. This increase supports the long term trend towards premiumisation of the beer market, with an extra 450,000 new consumers purchasing bottled ales for the first time driven by a demand for authentic, traditionally produced British beers which deliver flavour and “an affordable treat”. Marston’s flagship brand, Pedigree, was the best performing PBA in the 13 weeks to Christmas 2011, growing at 66% YoY*.

However, despite this strong growth, Marston’s claim retailers are losing an estimated £20m of sales due to high out-of-stocks of the leading brands, as the top 10 brands account for 45% of the category but have less than 20% of space. These extra sales can be achieved now by stocking multi-pack and mixed packs of the leading brands, plus clearer merchandising of the fixture that allows consumers to navigate within the category by brewer and beer style.

In the medium term, the report claims that sales of bottled ales will maintain their double digit growth, driven by further recruitment of new consumers to the category, plus additional legislative changes pushing up the price of deeply discounted lager brands, thus narrowing the price gap and making PBAs more appealing to consumers.

This fact is being evidenced in Scotland, where legislation to curb misuse of alcohol was brought into force in October 2011 and has already contributed to a full year decline of 10% in standard lager volume*, while bottled ale volume grew at 16%* in the same period, a faster rate than the rest of the UK. The widely anticipated minimum pricing legislation will accelerate this trend further as 81% of all lager volume is currently sold below the 45p per unit threshold, according to a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Retailers need to act now to begin a structural realignment of space from standard lager to premium ale, as ale’s share of the Take Home beer market, currently around three times less than the on trade share, will grow significantly when the temptation of discounted big pack lager pricing is removed.

James Coyle, sales and marketing director at Marston’s Beer Company comments: “This accelerated growth is a remarkable performance given the challenging economic backdrop and the highly competitive promotional environment in BWS. The opportunity for further growth in British bottled ales should attract more attention and importance, given that £20m of sales are currently being lost due to high out-of-stocks of the leading brands which are responsible for the recruitment of new consumers to the category. In the medium term, further legislative changes have the potential to significantly change the landscape of the Take Home beer market forever, with PBA’s well placed to benefit.”




For further information please contact:

Jeremy Eaton, Vital on 07973 333965 or Justin Way, Marston’s on 07790 018964


Editors Notes:

  • The Marston’s Premium Bottled Ale Report 2012 is compiled with independent market data from Symphony IRI, AC Nielsen, Kantar Worldpanel and the BBPA, together with Marston’s own shopper insight survey.
  • Volume growth equates to over 14 million more bottles YOY. Total volume equates to just under 150 million bottles sold each year.
  • *Sources : Symphony IRI Dec 2011 ; Kantar Worldpanel Dec 2011