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There was good news for the British brewing industry in the beer sales figures for 2018 released yesterday by the British Beer & Pub Association. The detailed tables can be downloaded here. These showed that, over the full year, there had been an overall rise in beer sales of 2.6%, the largest single increase in the 21 years covered by this statistical series. This was made up of a 4.7% rise in off-trade sales, and a 0.1% rise in the on-trade.
This has been widely attributed to England’s lengthy run in the World Cup, but in fact looking at the detailed figures they don’t show a dramatic peak. On-trade sales rose by 0.9% in the third quarter, but 2.2% in the fourth, while off-trade sales were up by 7.7% in the second and 7.6% in the third. The prolonged spell of hot weather in June and July probably had more of an impact.
Inevitably there were a few sour grapes complaining that this represented a further erosion of the market share of the on-trade vis-a-vis the off-trade. The on-trade accounted for 45.8% of the total, compared with 50.7% five years ago and 71.5% in 1997. But, as I have commented over the years, this is a long-term trend caused by a wide variety of social and legislative factors, and isn’t going to be reversed unless society as a whole changes. The absolute rise in on-trade sales is the only increase over the entire 21-year period, and surely it should be cause for celebration that the brewing industry in total seems to be in rude health.
However, no doubt this news will be met with gnashing of teeth from the anti-drink lobby, so expect renewed calls for the revival of the alcohol duty escalator.