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The latest Lager Trends in the UK

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Despite lager still accounting for 65% of all beer produced or sold in Britain, it’s not a great time to be a lager manufacture as sales are declining.

Mainstream sales of lager have been dropping since 2011 signifying an 11% downturn and show no sign of an upswing as customers obstinately stay at home, as shown through a drop of 10% in the number of visits to on-trades. To make matters worse, when customers do visit pubs, they are not choosing lager when they get there.

Jerry Shedden, category and trade marketing director at Heineken UK said, “Mainstream lagers are still the backbone of beer sales within the on-trade. However, bigger brands are seeing small declines as outlets look to premiumise ranges and respond to the trend for craft.”

Liam Newton, Carlsberg UK’s vice president agrees with this view. “Consumers are drinking less, but better, with over half of 18-34 year olds claiming to only drink ‘premium’ lager. It is undeniable that premiumisation is a trend continuing to dominate the lager sector.” He added.

According to CGA, the out-of- home food and drink analysts, while total volume of lager sales have dipped by 5.6% in the last four years, value over the same period is up by a corresponding 5.5%, evidencing the switch to higher value, premium products.

CGA senior client manager, Paul Bolton, explains that, “Lager volume declines over the past four or five years are driven primarily by the standard lager brands. As more premium choices become available to fit a consumer looking for a more premium experience, these brands have suffered the most and as they’re the biggest, it drives the whole category down. The picture more recently is a lot more positive as growth in premium lager brands in particular has meant volume declines are being curtailed, while value is in growth. It is important to note how big standard lager still is-the top three brands make up 48% of total lager volume- but this share has dropped from 56% four years ago, with a number of licensees choosing to scrap the category altogether and start with a more premium brand as their entry-level lager”.

So while there are challenges for both makers and sellers of lager, the continuing expansion of craft and premium variants suggest the picture may not be as bleak as it first seems.