Cask Marque: cask most resilient beer sector

Over the last six years in what has been described as a “challenging on-trade market”, cask beer has proved the most resilient beer sector, with both keg and lager sales declining to a greater extent, Cask Marque has found in its latest Cask Report.

Photo: Red Flame Comms

Over the past six years, Cask Marque found that UK keg and lager sales declined by 25% and 11% respectively, compared to sales of cask beer that fell by just 5%.

In terms of volume sales, lager still dominates the on-trade market with a 65% share, well ahead of ale with 29% and stout with 6%. Within the ale category, cask beer has a 57% share compared to keg’s 43%.

Cask Marque has revealed that in a survey of pubs which specialise in cask beer, 65% said that sales were growing and only 7% reported a decline. In terms of which region has seen the largest increase in cask sales, Cask Marque has revealed that Scotland and North England have the highest number of pubs with growing cask sales, with 71% of Scottish pubs and 69% of Northern English pubs reporting a rise.

The organisation has referred to cask ale as having a “halo effect” by which it means that cask increases pub sales owing to the fact that cask drinkers are most likely to be the highest spenders of all beer consumers.

The Cask Report emphasises that the cask sector is also fairing well in the ‘craft beer era,’ with 56% of craft drinkers surveyed saying they associate cask ale with craft beer. In contrast, lager is the category most affected by the craft beer boom, the report states, with 38% of craft drinkers surveyed saying they switched from drinking lager to craft beer.

Cask benefitting from ‘vibrant brewing scene’

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) recently revealed that the number of breweries has grown from 1,540 last year to 1,704 this year. Owing to this increase, Cask Marque estimates that the UK’s regional and local brewers produce around 10,000 different cask ales a year.

This is in contrast to the fall in the number of pubs in the UK. Over the past six years, the number has fallen by over 5,000 and CAMRA now believes closures are happening at a rate of 21 per week.

The importance of consistency 

As a way to combat the closures, the Cask Report stresses the importance of consistency, highlighting the need for better staff training which will in turn reduce wastage, increase profit, and ensure beer is both stored and served correctly.

Paul Nunny (Photo: Red Flame Comms)

As part of its survey, Cask Marque found that one in three pints is served “via an unclean beer line” and the same number of storage facilities “are outside the recommended temperature specifications”.

The guide states that by “improving standards through training,” annual profits can rise by as much as 3%. As an example, if an outlet sells 150 barrels of beer a year at an average of £2.50 a pint, it will receive an extra £2,268 profit per annum.

Reducing wastage alone can, the report claims, lead to an extra 1.7% profit per annum, which equates to £206 million across the UK industry.

From the consumer point of view, the report states that 40% of beer drinkers will avoid a particular pub which has served them a bad pint.

“Don’t be a Lidl pub”

Cask Marque sales and marketing director, Paul Nunny, warned pubs against becoming a Lidl pub and selling “a range of non-branded products”.

Echoing the pricing advice stated in the report, Nunny said: “Whilst an entry level price for a house beer is a value offer, you need to build a price ladder on the back of this. Don’t be a Lidl pub and sell a range of non-branded products”.

Nunny advises readers to look at what is happening in the US market to gauge what will happen in the UK.

“Consumers in the US are becoming tired of over hopped beers and are looking at more drinkability with lower ABV. We have never gone to the extremes of the US but must remember that we want consumers to order another pint”.

He also stresses that brewers need a “defined USP” with a focus on quality, citing the results of a recent YouGov survey that reveal that 68% of cask ale drinkers will pay a higher price for quality beer.

The Cask Report is funded by the Cask Matters group whose members include Adnams, Caledonian, CAMRA, Carlsberg, Cask Marque, Charles Wells, Fuller’s, Greene King, Independent Family Brewers of Britain, Marston’s, Punch, Robinsons, Shepherd Neame, SIBA, St Austell, Thwaites and Wadworth.

The data used in the report includes YouGov’s survey of 2,030 adults conducted in summer 2017, the Cask Marque trade survey 2017 and data from CGA Peach, CAMRA, BBPA and SIBA.

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