Sales of beer in 2018 were up 2.6% on 2017, according to the latest Beer Barometer sales data from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). The increase marks the biggest year-on-year sales growth of beer in 45 years.

In the off-trade, full-year sales of beer increased by 4.7% on full-year 2017 sales. In the on-trade, full-year sales of beer increased by 0.1% on full-year 2017 sales.

Despite a difficult start to 2018 for the beer and pub sector, with total sales of beer in the first quarter down by 1.7% on the same period in 2017, consistent growth in Q2 (up 3.6% on Q2 2017), Q3 (up 4.4% on Q3 2017), and Q4 (up 3.1% on Q4 2017) meant it was a record year for beer sales.

Increased beer sales in Q2 and Q3 were driven by the success of England at the World Cup, which saw the national team reach the semi-finals of the tournament, driving footfall in pubs where fans watched the games. Increased beer sales in Q2 and Q3 were also driven in part by good weather, which encouraged people to get out and visit their local, making full use of the pub garden.

World Cup and good weather help

Although the World Cup was a welcome boost to pubs, leading to a notable increase in beer sales, it only comes around once every four years. This means pubs cannot rely on it for growth. Good weather cannot be relied on, either.

The Chancellor’s decision to freeze beer duty in his most recent Budget was, therefore, very welcome, and appears to have had an immediate impact on the industry, with beer sales increasing in Q4 2018. In particular, pubs benefited from a strong end to 2018, with beer sales growing by 2.2% in Q4,
compared to the same period in 2017. This was the first time Q4 beer sales grew in the on-trade since 2011.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “2018 has been a good year for beer and pubs. Considering the heavy cost burdens the industry faces from high beer duty, business rates, and rising costs in general, it’s great to see beer sales doing the best they have for some years.

“As the UK’s alcoholic drink of choice — which continues to have a much bigger positive impact on the UK economy than any other drink — it is important that beer continues to do well, and that the Chancellor continues to support pubs.”

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