Lager under pressure in UK

The lager category in the UK has been finding itself under fire from ales and bitters with lager sales volumes declining by nearly 1% last year.

The number of UK consumers drinking lager fell from 54% of the beer market in the six months to September 2014 to 49% in the six months to October 2015.

Meanwhile UK consumers are expected to have drunk 12% more ale and bitter in 2015 than in 2014.

Mintel’s Beer UK 2015 Report blames the craft beer boom (with sales in styles such as IPA in particular) for fuelling this rise in competition to lager.

Overall, sales of lager have dropped by 8% over the past five years alone and today more than one quarter (27%) drink ale or bitter whilst one in five (20%) drink any type of craft beer.

What’s more Mintel’s research indicates that lager’s falling fortunes are having a detrimental effect on overall beer consumption figures with overall consumption volumes slipping slightly to 4.25 billion litres of beer in 2015, down from 4.27 billion litres in 2014.

Meanwhile, growth in sales value sales has slowed, rising only slightly from £16.61 billion in 2014 to an estimated £16.68 billion in 2015.

There are, however, signs of growth in 2016 and Mintel forecasts value sales to reach £18.1 billion by 2020.

“Lager sales have plateaued in recent years” observed Mintel’s Senior Drinks Analyst Chris Wisson, “however it could enhance its chances of 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.

“Overall, the beer market should benefit from greater craft innovation as well as sales uplifts from events such as the Olympic Games and UEFA Euro 2016.”

Additionally, it seems that cost is having an effect on the nation’s appetite for beer with as many as three in 10 (29%) beer drinkers prepared to pay more than £4 per pint while one fifth (20%) of UK beer drinkers state that they’re not willing to pay more than £2.99 for a 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,” explains Chris 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.”



The top three glassware preferences for out-of-home beer drinkers are the nonic (27%), the tulip (16%) and the tankard (14%).

Traditionally a favourite of the more mature male drinker the tankard now garners the most interest among younger men. One quarter (26%) of 18-24 year old male out-of-home beer drinkers stated that their favourite type of glassware to drink pints from is the tankard.

The half pint, on the other hand, is more preferred by women with one fifth (19%) of out-of-home female beer drinkers saying they most like to drink beer from this type of glass compared to just 6% of men.

“Tankards used to be a highly popular glass but fell out of favour in recent decades largely due to their high production costs,” concluded Chris Wisson, “However there are significant advantages of this glass type, notably the handle which means that drinkers do not have to hold the body of the glass, warming their beer in the process. There are signs that the tankard is seeing a return in popularity as the favourite of younger male drinkers most of whom were not drinking during the tankard’s previous period in the spotlight, buoyed by the craft ale movement.”

Nonics remain the most popular beer glass type among UK beer drinkers.

Nonics remain the most popular beer glass type among UK beer drinkers.


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