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British beer sales finally rise

By chief hack Ignatius Rake

Posted January 30, 2015
booze news

Total UK beer sales up for first time in nine years despite slight slip in pub sales.

According to the latest 'Beer Barometer' stats from the British Beer & Pub Association, total UK beer sales rose 1.3% last year to reach 109.4bn barrels.

This "startling turnaround", a BBPA press release states, follows two consecutive 1p ($0.02) cuts in duty and ends a nine-years draught in which beer sales shrunk by "an astonishing 24%".

Translating into "6.7m fewer pints sold per day", this dismal period of decline was primarily the result of "huge tax rises", including "a devastating beer duty hike of 42% from 2008 to 2013 under the disastrous beer tax escalator" system.

This alone, the BBPA continues, ramped up the duty (plus the VAT on that duty) from 42p to 65p on "a typical pint".

At the same time, some 7,000 UK pubs closed with the loss of 58,000 jobs.

However, taxes are "still much higher than they were a decade ago".

Indeed, UK drinkers now pay "40% per cent of all EU beer duties, but drink just 12%" of the beer consumed there.

Thus the BBPA reports that it is "leading calls for a much-needed hat-trick of beer duty cuts" in the next Budget this coming March 18.

Beer sales in pubs have begun to "stabilise", the Association continues, noting that "a small decline of 0.8%" in 2014 "was the smallest decline in sales since 1996".

Meanwhile, off-trade sales grew by 3.5%, "taking off-licence and supermarket sales above on-trade sales for the first time on record".

"British beer is back in growth – and we want to keep it that way," says BBPA CEO Brigid Simmonds.

"But with 70% of pub drink sales being beer, the picture for our much loved pubs is still fragile."

"That is why another duty cut from the chancellor is vital."

"It will build on the success of two very popular tax cuts in the past two years and boost jobs in an industry that employs 900,000 people, almost half of whom are 16-24 year olds."

"That has got to be good news."


Shortly after the announcement, Tim Page, CEO of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), issued the following statement: "It is fantastic to see overall beer sales back in growth for the first time in 10 years, but it is vitally important that beer sales in pubs move back into growth too."

"The 0.8% drop in pub beer sales is the smallest decline in sales since 1996, but if we want to see less pubs closing it is vital that number is pushed into positive growth."

"A third beer duty cut in next month's budget will help ensure that 2015 is the year when pub beer sales finally start growing again."

See also Osborne cuts beer duty again, posted 19/3/14, and UK pub closures escalate, posted 23/1/15.

Ignatius Rake
is a freelance journalist and geographer who has visited more than 70 countries on six continents. A published lyricist and founder of the Naked Trouser DJ collective, he has fronted punk bands in both the UK and Poland, including the only band ever to be kicked off BBC Radio Cornwall. In 2013, he represented the UK at the Fourth Annual Smoke's Poutinerie World Poutine Eating Championship in Toronto, getting his arse royally whipped by Rake & Herald reader and Major League Eating speedscarfing supremo Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut. He has been known to like a pint.

Update: 30/1/15

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