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Lager loses lustre as ale and bitter sales rise

By Emma Eversham+ , 15-Jan-2016
Last updated on 15-Jan-2016 at 10:17 GMT2016-01-15T10:17:44Z

Lager loses lustre as ale and bitter sales rise

A lack of lustre in the lager category is being partially blamed for a drop in beer sales. 

According to research by Mintel, despite growth in the ale and bitter category last year, overall beer sales fell from 4.27 billion litres in 2014 to 4.25 billion litres in 2015.

Although sales of lager still heavily outweigh those of ale, its consumption is in decline, falling from 3.18 billion litres in 2014 to an estimated 3.15 billion litres in 2015.

By contrast the sale of ale and bitter rose from 895 million litres in 2014 to 913 million litres in 2015 with growing interest in the craft beer category said to be the driver.

Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, said lager sales could boost its chances of returning to growth by ‘tapping into the craft beer movement more effectively’.

“With the majority of craft beers available in both the on- and off-trade falling into the ale and bitter segment, these beers have garnered considerable coverage in recent years," he said.  Many craft brewers have prioritised ales, brewing variants such as pale ale, for example IPA and golden ale, in turn driving the popularity of premium bottled ales.”

Price and presentation

Mintel’s research also found that 20 per cent of beer drinkers are not prepared to pay more than £2.99 for a pint. Only 29 per cent said they would pay more than £4 per pint.

“The steady rise in price over the past decade has given rise to notable consumer resistance in having to spend more on beer, particularly when it comes to breaking the £4, and even £5 barriers,” said Wisson. “Brands asking consumers to pay more for beer need to provide clear reasons for doing so, for example via packaging or branded glassware, as well as delivering a discernibly superior taste to cheaper mainstream alternatives.”

There was also growing interest in the type of glassware used to serve beer in, the research found, with the tankard, once the reserve of the mature male drinker, now the favoured style of glass for 26 per cent of 18-24-year-olds.

However, the nonic was still the most popular for a pint among 27 per cent of all adult drinkers with the tulip popular with 16 per cent of drinkers and the tankard popular with 14 per cent of drinkers overall.

The half pint glass is more popular with women with 19 per cent of women preferring to drink from this size compared to 6 per cent of men.  

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