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82% drop in beer sales as Covid-19 lockdown hits craft breweries hardest

Results released today from a survey of small independent breweries across the UK show on average beer sales are down by 82% since the outbreak of Covid-19, with many businesses struggling to survive. 

8 out of 10 brewers do not believe the Government is doing enough to support them with more than half (54%) of the UK’s independent breweries being unable to access any Government support. Nearly a third (29%) are now considering redundancies.

Despite beer production being part of the food supply chain – meaning brewers are designated key workers – with pubs, bars and restaurants closed the main route to market for independent breweries has been entirely cut-off, leading to 65% of breweries stopping production altogether. 

The survey of 282 UK breweries by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) reveals the devastating impact of the Covid-19 lockdown measures on one of the UK’s most successful manufacturing industries.

“Unlike the Global beer brands who can supply supermarkets in great volume, small independent breweries sell the majority of their beer through pubs, bars and restaurants, meaning the lockdown measures have hit them much harder. While many have launched local delivery services or online shops to try to stay afloat, the increase in online sales is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall decrease their beer sales have seen” said James Calder, SIBA’s Chief Executive.

“Pubs, bars and restaurants have been receiving help from the Government, but none of the same schemes apply to our small breweries who saw their sales fall off a cliff almost overnight. They urgently need a package of measures to keep them going otherwise many won’t be able to reopen.”

The survey shows that 70% of breweries are offering new delivery or takeaway services in order to help supply their local communities with quality independent craft beer, with around 61% of those breweries now offering free delivery to local beer lovers. 

SIBA are calling on Government to relax licensing laws to allow the 1 in 4 breweries who don’t have the relevant licenses in place to deliver beer direct to consumers in a variety of ways. The trade association say this should come as part of a targeted package of support for breweries and the brewery supply chain to match the level received by pubs, including making the grants and exemptions from business rates offered to pubs applicable to breweries. 

In addition beer duty payments, which are often a brewers single biggest cost which account for 35% of turnover should be deferred by Government to help weather this storm. 

The trade association is also working with beer consumer group CAMRA on the ‘Pulling Together’ initiative, which links independent breweries and pubs offering beer delivery and takeaway services with beer lovers across the UK.

The survey of 282 UK small independent brewers by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) was conducted from 9-14 April 2020 and shows:

Negative impact on the industry

  • 82% drop in beer sales amongst independent breweries
  • 65% of breweries have stopped brewing altogether, a further 31% saying it has slowed, 3% saying it has stayed the same, and just 1% saying it has increased
  • 81% of breweries believe the Government is not doing enough to support independent breweries
  • 54% breweries have not been able to access any of the existing Government assistance 
  • 29% of breweries considering redundancies 

Independent breweries adapting to survive 

  • 70% of breweries offering new delivery or takeaway services 
  • 61% of breweries now offering free local delivery to their communities
  • 55% increase in online beer sales