Premium bottled ale drives beer recovery

The UK’s premium bottled ale category has the potential to more than double in value to £1 billion by 2020, according to a new report.

beerHighlighting a modest 0.2% return to volume growth for the UK’s beer sector as a whole this year after eight years in decline, the Premium Bottled Ale Report 2014 released by brewer Marston’s picked out this higher quality tier as offering the biggest opportunity for increasing sales.

Alongside a 1.8% volume uplift for the premium lager category, the brewer, which produces beers such as Hobgoblin, Marston’s Pedigree and Brakspear, flagged up the 4.4% growth enjoyed by premium bottled ale.

The report, which uses data from CGA Strategy, IRI and Kantar, pointed to a £90 million increase in the value of the premium bottled ale category last year to reach £420m as it outlined three key factors behind this growth.

With growth centred on the off-trade, where premium bottled ale grew by 12.1%, these factors included improved shopper engagement through better merchandising and the success of own label expressions, increased shelf space and online offer, and a strong focus on product innovation.

Together, the report claimed, these elements have helped to attract 7% more shoppers, equivalent to half a million people, to the premium bottled ale category in the last 12 months. Around 350,000 of these were attracted by the own label category, which the report identified as offering “a low-risk trial into bottled ale which converts into a long-term category shopper”.

Boosted by the current craft ale trend, the category has launched more new SKUs during the last 12 months than any other segment of the UK beer market, with golden ales and mixed packs proving particularly popular. While golden ale has enjoyed 31% growth in the last year, mixed packs have seen sales grow by 73% during the same period.

Paul Warren, senior category manager at Marston’s, hailed the report as evidence of “a scalable and long term value creation opportunity” for the UK beer sector.

Looking ahead, he said: “Our agenda is set by our shoppers and consumers; the ongoing trend away from high volume and generic beer brands towards those with quality, taste and provenance is evidenced in the market numbers.”

Pointing to the large number of new consumers buying premium bottled ales, Warren continued: “Our task as brewers and retailers is to make our category ever more interesting, innovative and accessible to facilitate this ongoing consumer shift.”

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