Lagers, wine gain in Britain

On-premise sales of traditional ales continue to slip

Nov 13, 2003 - Wines and lagers continue to make inroads in Britain, where traditional ales have long been the drink of choice. In fact, in 2002, none of the top ten beer brands sold at supermarkets, off-licenses and other retailers were ales.


A new survey AC Neilsen on behalf of Off Licence News, based on 2002 sales figures, showed Guinness Draught as the highest traditional ale in 11th place, down from fifth in 2001.

Meanwhile, a longer-term trend shows that wine sales are rapidly closing in on beer, as British drinking habits increasingly mirror those in countries such as France and Italy.

The most popular beer brand, Stella Artois, registered off-premise sales of 438.7 million last year (up 20%). The highest-placed English bitter is John Smith's Extra Smooth, in 14th place, with sales of 37 million, a 14% rise and one of the few bitters to see an increase in sales.

Take-home sales of beer grew by 4% to more than 2.5 billion last year, and now account for more than a third of all British beer sales. Traditional ales continue sell much better in pubs.

But the fastest long-term growth is coming from wine consumption. Just 30 years ago, beer accounted for 64% of alcohol consumed in Britain, with wine at 13% and spirits at 21%. By last year, that share had fallen to 46%, with wine at 26% and spirits on 19%.

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