Marston's hails 2012 as year of the PBA

Bottled beers are driving growth in the ale market but retailers are missing £20 million in sales due to out-of-stocks, according to new figures. 

In its third annual report into the premium bottled ale market, Marston’s heralded 2012 as the year of “change and opportunity” for the sector, but warned retailers must reappraise how they range. 

James Coyle, sales and marketing director at Marston’s, said: “Against the toughest economic background, premiumisation in the ale market continues with the PBA category significantly outperforming a declining beer market, delivering growth in both volume, up 11%, and value, up 12.2%, according to Nielsen.”

He said that over the past year, 450,000 consumers had been recruited to the category, but that out-of-stocks and poor ranging were costing retailers significant sales: “Out-of-stocks are the number one issue for retailers, given that PBA shoppers deliver a higher average basket spend than shoppers from any other category of beer.

“The top 10 PBA brands are 45% of the market but have 20% of the space, and so they are probably out of stock. Old Speckled Hen is sold out, but you will see two facings of Old Legover, or whatever.”

He added that there were twice as many shoppers for PBAs as for world beers – which he defined as imported beers including Budvar and Leffe. 

Coyle said: “World beers have done a good job, but the reality is that consumers don’t have a clue what the definitions mean, they tend to morph. Retailers have a responsibility; they could call the fixtures World Beers and British Beers. World beer gets double the space. With the right prevailing wind, PBAs could double in the next two years.”

While ale is growing in the off-trade, and currently has a 19% share of the beer and cider market, Coyle said it “under-trades” compared to pubs, where it commands a 26% share. He attributed the difference to retailers’ focus on deeply promoted multipacks of cider and lager, but added that pricing and promotion legislation would change the dynamic. 

Coyle said Scottish legislation introduced last October banning big pack multibuy promotions had benefited premium beer, with PBA volumes up by 16.4% at the expense of standard lager, which dipped by 10.1%. 

On the back of the findings, Marston’s has also unveiled a three-strong range of beer-based products – Ginger Beard, Snakebite and Forest Fruits – to “open the ale category up into a new market”. 

The report said: “Although not a traditional bottled ale, flavoured beers led by Crabbie’s alcoholic ginger beer have grown to build a share equivalent to 12% of the traditional PBA market. 

“This is in line with similar growth seen in the cider category, where fruit ciders are growing at 64%.”

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