Beer sales recovering from pandemic slump

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Beer sales recovering from pandemic slump as average pint price rise forecast

Related tags: Beer price rises, Vat rise

Beer sales in the UK are recovering to pre-pandemic levels, a new study from UHY Hacker Young shows.

Figures from the national accountancy group show that 4.6 billion litres of beer sold in 2021 up 13% from 4.1 billion in 2020 - an increase equivalent to 1.1 billion pints.

James Simmonds, partner at UHY Hacker Young, says that people drinking at home during the height of the pandemic replaced beer with wine or spirits, resulting in a 13% fall in beer sales in 2020. Now pubs have reopened, beer sales have swiftly recovered to 98% of their pre-pandemic 2019 level.

“The pandemic saw a sudden shift in people’s drinking habits, with a move away from beer,” explains Simmonds.

“That seems to have been temporary – we are now seeing consumers flooding back to beer.

“It was a good summer for beer sales, with football’s European Championships providing a welcome sales boost for pubs.”

Simonds adds that some small breweries may have only held licenses to sell to the pub trade, but not to sell directly to the public. Many breweries potentially struggled to acquire licenses to begin direct sales to the public quickly when the pandemic began, contributing to a downturn in 2020 sales.

Inflation pushes up price of average pint

Hacker Young's data comes as Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, forecasts a 16 to 20 pence rise in the cost of an average pint over the next three months as inflation, increased VAT pressures​ ​and surging gas prices hit hospitality operators. 

Lord predicts the cost of a pint, which now averages £4.07 in the UK, will rise by 4% and 5%, pushing the price to around £4.25.

“Our sector looks like it's back to normal with the naked eye, but behind the scenes, operators are barely breaking even,” says Lord.

“Many operators will be forced to increase customer prices by around four to five per cent simply to stay afloat and this additional rise will be noticeable to punters.”

National pub chain JD Wetherspoon announced last month that it had already increased its prices by 10p across its venues (20p in London) to counter already rising costs; while Patrick Dardis, chief executive of leading brewery, Young’s, warned of price rises of over 70p a pint by Christmas due to significant increase in grain prices and expected energy bills.

“Landlords are trying their best in what is a financially precarious situation for many and putting prices up isn't something they will want to do,” adds Lord.

“I believe most will try to keep price increases lower than the current 6.2% inflation rate to keep customers coming in, and will look to cut costs elsewhere such in their supply chains or even by reducing trading hours and cutting staff hours.”

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