Off Premise Beer Sales Take Lead Over On-Premise in UK

Austin Ray

The Guardian reports that off-premise beer sales have overtaken on-premise for the first time. More than ever, UK consumers are choosing to drink beers bought at the supermarket instead of venturing out to a local pub.

Research conducted by the British Beer & Pub Association shows that on-premise beer sales have shrunk by 44% since 1980. This combined with data from CAMRA that suggests up to 29 pubs a week are closing looks damning as far as the UK beer market is concerned. 

One reason for this shift could be price point. The average price of a pint in the UK ranges dramatically from £2.40 ($3.10) to £4.70 ($6), depending on region, with beer generally being more expensive in cities and in the southeast, particularly London. Beer is sold for significantly less in supermarkets, with some commodity brands such as Carlsberg retailing for less than a quarter of the price of a pub pint. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the UK beer market, and The Guardian’s report certainly doesn’t indicate that on-premise sales are on the way out. According to a recent conference I attended, the craft beer sector, which currently accounts for around 4% of the UK marketplace, is growing at an average rate of about 40% year over year—even faster in big cities such as London or Manchester. Sales of cask beer are growing too, according to this year's Cask Report from Cask Marque.

The Guardian’s report also doesn’t indicate that there are numerous successful pubs opening regularly here in the UK. The most successful of these are able to balance price point with quality, as UK consumers seek added value equal to more than just the money in their wallets. 

—Matthew Curtis

Supermarket beer sales overtake pubs for first time [The Guardian]