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Cans Get Bottled

Tesco and Asda continue to undertrade in bottled ales, even though this is the only beer category in volume growth

The Ale market is becoming increasingly divided between cans and bottles, instead of the usual division between standard (3.4-4.2% ABV) and premium (greater than 4.2% ABV). Bottled ales are the only category in value growth at the moment, driven both by increased average consumption and an increase in the number of buyers.

Bearing in mind that increased popularity can be expected to lead to a lower average consumption – as new buyers and triallists will consume less than established buyers – this is a very strong performance.

In marked contrast, sales of canned ales are falling, at both ABV levels. Meanwhile, standard ales are losing buyers, and maintaining average purchasing levels. The increase in average purchasing volumes for premium canned ale is a direct result of its large loss of buyers – those who remain are almost by definition highly involved in the category.

Some leading retailers are undertrading in ales, even in the rapidly growing bottled ales market. Both Tesco and Asda are significantly undertrading, preferring to concentrate on the more popular lager market. Sainsbury’s and the Morrisons Group, on the other hand, overtrade on bottled ales and are consequently key retailers for brewers to target.

The top 10 brands by penetration are fairly stable overall. Old Speckled Hen continues to hold the number-one slot, while Hobgoblin Strong Ale has significantly improved its positioning.

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