Is pale beer losing its appeal? We all probably know people that prefer dark beers, or even brown beers, but is this affecting beer sales? There is some evidence from our American friends that this may be so. Sales of Budweiser in the U.S. declined 29 percent
between 2007 and 2012. Budweiser Select
was down 61 percent over the same period, Michelob Light a staggering
70 percent. Miller Genuine Draft dropped 56 percent
and Milwaukee’s Best Light 40 percent over the same period. Heineken didn't get away unscathed either with a 37% fall over the same period for its light version.
Does this really mean anything for us? Unlike many, I am not that convinced that what happens in the US always has a direct influence on what happens here, though in terms of trends there is undoubtedly some linkage. It ties in well with this post from Ed Wray about a "catastrophic" fall in off sales of standard lager. He also said "ale accounted
for 30% of total beer sales in the last quarter of 2013 against the
usual share of 15%. Marstons sold 40% less standard lager and cream flow
T-bar ales like John Smiths and Worthington lost 15%." Now these are really rather startling figures and such changes cannot be accounted for solely in terms of craft beer taking market share. The drop in John Smith's Smooth sales is particularly interesting, as it is the "go to" cheap smooth beer of the North.
So, it seems that the world, including the UK is falling out of love with no frills lawnmower style beer, but it is slightly more difficult to say exactly what is happening, other than, given global sales of beer are down, that folks are shifting away from beer and cheap light beer in particular and that there is some evidence that there is a move to the dark side.* Does this mean that premiumisation still has some legs left in it and that as people are drinking less, they are drinking "better"? And darker?
Kind of looks like it.
Or maybe it was a recession thing? That's the other side of the coin, in that those with less disposable income, that used to buy lots of cheap light beer are buying much less?
*Premium and craft beers are rarely lager like pale.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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