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Consistency of cask ale is vital, finds new Marstons On Trade Beer Report

With it more important than ever to champion the pub sector and help keep the much-loved local at the heart of the community, Marston’s PLC has unveiled its latest On Trade Beer Report to enable operators to drive beer sales in the year ahead. Providing insight into the beer drinker, industry trends and category performance, the report offers practical advice on how pub operators can increase footfall, visit frequency and spend per head.

The report stresses the importance of operators understanding their drinkers to sell more beer. Ale drinkers are by far the most experimental customers (57% of drinkers) and more likely to buy across multiple sub-categories based on occasion and seasonality. Lager drinkers remain relatively brand loyal with 41% preferring to stick to their favourites and 48% highly influenced by its availability within a pub.

Quality beer can help a pub stand out from the competition. For drinkers choosing a cask ale, the report shows consistent quality is the most important factor in choosing where to drink, followed by the range of beer and service. Despite this finding, the report reveals a significant 70% of cask ale drinkers have been served off or stale beer, with 40% avoiding the pub and 39% steering clear of the brand thereafter. Style remains the most beneficial way to range cask ale to maximise sales and appeal to more drinkers; once this has been achieved, operators can then introduce other factors such as ABV, nationally recognised brands and local beers to enhance the breadth of range. Insights from the report indicate that when it comes to factors such as guest ale, 63% of drinkers want these to be available between two weeks and one month.

Premiumisation is dramatically impacting the beer category through consumers drinking less, but better, with 72% of lager NPD now premium and craft ale more valuable than Stout. This year, drinkers in the On Trade have consumed 66.5m fewer pints of beer than they did last year, but have spent £177.8m more. The report advises operators to capitalise on this by offering a wider beer range alongside additional offers, like food, which contribute towards improved overall value for experience. It also identifies the opportunity for a pricing ladder, allowing operators to deliver fair prices and enabling consumers to take control of when they premiumise their drinks choice.

As consumers become increasingly concerned about health and wellbeing, the low/no alcohol category has seen growth of 30% since 2016. Whilst the trend towards moderation is being led by 18-24 year olds, it is gaining traction with the mass market and more affluent consumers. The report reveals that drinkers prefer lower ABV beers in the afternoon and find them easier to drink. Including no alcohol and lower ABV drinks within an operator’s range will cater for working week, lunch and after work trade.

Louise Fleming, Head of Consumer Marketing at Marston’s, commented: “Understanding the drinker will help pubs to sell more beer by ensuring the right brands are in the right outlets. Providing the correct range is key to increase sales and with more drinkers now wanting to be able to experiment, getting the balance between choice and quality is essential. It is important to understand how lifestyle trends will affect the future of innovation in beer, bringing the consumer into the heart of everything we do.”

Click here to download the annual Beer Report.