08:16 13 November 2009
UK drinkers are returning to bitter, with sales of the traditional British beverage topping 400 million pints, as the division between on and off-trade sales (pub and home market sales) quickly narrows.
Analyst AC Nielsen stated that sales of bitter increased 7% year on year in value to £475m and also in 1% in volume to 404 million pints.
Lager sales, meanwhile, also rose in value by 4% to £2.9bn, however the actual volume sold is down by 1% to 2.8 billion pints.
It has been suggested that that the reasons why lager sales are so consistently high is because there tends to be little difference between a pint served from a pub and a can/bottle found cheaply in supermarkets.
Lager may still conquer the beer drinking market but bitters Boddington, Old Speckled Hen and John Smith's Extra Smooth all feature in the top 20.Ales are notoriously tricky to preserve in a can or bottle to replicate their authentic pub taste, but in recent years new technology has been introduced leading to the rise in sales.
The reassuringly expensive Stella Artois is the top beer in the UK followed by lighter choices Foster's and Carling.
The resurgence of bitter is odd given that more and more traditional pubs which would have stocked them are being closed, resulting in a shift towards drinking at home.
Currently only 56% of beers are sold in pubs and clubs - affirming that the on-trade business is in decline. Meanwhile, the off-trade, whereby customers drink at home via shop-bought booze, is rising it is expected to overtake on-trade by next year for the first time.
Nielsen analyst Graham Page said: "It's not that the off trade is doing spectacularly well, it's that the on-trade figures are spectacularly awful."
Top 20 beer brands in the UK
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