Cask Marque: pubs should charge more for cask

Cask beer drinkers in the UK spend 30% more than the average pub-goer, this year’s Cask Report has found, prompting its publishers, Cask Marque, to highlight cask’s price rise potential in line with the cost of keg beer.

According to the Cask Report, released by industry body Cask Marque last week, cask ale drinkers are the big spenders that the UK pub industry “can’t afford to ignore”. Cask consumers spend an average of £1,029 in the pub per year, compared to lager drinkers with £981 and craft beer drinkers with £897. The overall average is a yearly spend of £770.

The report found that cask beer consumers not only spent more, but they visit more – 42% visit a pub once a week or more, compared to the 20% average of ‘all adult drinkers’ surveyed.

Cask Marque stated that industry professionals were “overly cautious in their belief there’s not much opportunity to flex their [cask ale] prices” given that cask beer drinkers were found to be “less motivated by budget”, “more curious and adventurous” and are “more interested in the beer than they are in the price”.

The industry body found that only 25% of managers, 16% of tenants and leaseholders and 14% of freehouse operators think there is an opportunity to increase cask prices. To support its argument (that there are opportunities – although these are dependent on a number of factors) Cask Marque revealed that almost a quarter of cask ale consumers would be prepared to spend more than £50 or more in a night. This amounts to an increase of 6.5% in the past two years.

Source: YouGov 2017

90% of cask drinkers were also found to not have a specific amount of money in mind when going out for a drink.

The report also infers that opportunities for price rises exist due to the fact that 69% of cask consumers fall into the ABC1 demographic, the NRS social grading reference used to indicate the most affluent members of society.

Cask should learn from keg

Cask Marque conducted research into the average prices of beer, surveying pubs that “provide a quality cask offer”. It found that the national average price for a pint of standard or session cask ale is £3.31, compared to £3.48 for standard lager and up to £3.88 per pint for standard craft keg, a price differential of 17%.

For premium beers or those of a higher strength, the national average was £3.52 for cask and £4.15 for craft keg. The report states that “far from representing a threat, the higher price of craft keg demonstrates the scale of opportunity for the cask sector”.

While the report does not condone “an immediate price rise of 20% across all cask beers,” it nevertheless demonstrates the opportunities for the category, highlighted by pricing in the craft keg sector. It suggests that potential price increases should be based on “a review of the beer range and pricing structure in the context of the style of the outlet and the local market”.

Source: Cask Marque calculated from YouGov 2017

It also states that “cask drinkers want a mixture of familiar and new brands, as well as a choice of different styles of ale”. With the option of tried and tested brands, along with new offerings to explore, Cask Marque believes “drinkers are likely to accept differentials in pricing”. This means that along with high priced beers, there is still a place for those priced at “entry level”.

In terms of pricing structure, the report suggests that standard strength cask ale “viewed as premium in character” should be priced above standard lager; “respected, premium strength” cask beers should be priced “at least equivalent to a premium lager”, while “artisanal, top-of-the-range ales that are high in strength, usual in style or with particular points of interest” have the potential to be served at a “much higher price” and also served in smaller measures.

The Cask Report concludes that in order to conduct a pricing review, the pub must first ensure that it has a quality offering, both in terms of its choices and the way the beer is both stored and served. In addition, considerations such as location, local competition and outlet style must be taken into account first.

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