Research highlights decline of cask ale

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By Graham Ridout The cask-ale market is still in steep decline and is now worth around three million barrels, according to the latest report from...

By Graham Ridout The cask-ale market is still in steep decline and is now worth around three million barrels, according to the latest report from market research specialist AC Nielsen. The findings contrast sharply with other reports indicating that it was worth around five million barrels. Nielsen consultant Graham Page said: "Some recent reports in 2002 have suggested cask ale was a market worth five million barrels and the industry had been misinformed and wrong about cask ale's decline. Such reports, whilst provided with the best of intentions, were wrong, misguided, inaccurate and based on dubious methodology. He continued: "Cask ale, as this review clearly demonstrates with hard, indisputable statistics from utterly reliable sources, is not growing, but declining still. "It is not worth five million, nor four million, but around three million barrels, less of micros' estimates are excluded, taking it closer to 2.6 million in 2002." The sector that is causing most concern is standard ales, which Nielsen estimated had fallen by 16% for the year to January 2003. The losers were: Tetley's (-12%); Courage Best (-15%); Banks's Original (-24%); Banks's Bitter (-25%); John Smith's (-13%); Theakston Best (-23%); Boddingtons Cask (-53%); Flowers IPA (-7%). Among the winners were: Greene King IPA (up 6%); Fuller's London Pride (+22%) and at 4.1% abv straddles the standard and premium sectors ­ together with unspecified encouraging signs from Adnams, Brains, and Belhaven. The premium cask sector witnessed a decline of 6.7%. The losers were: Bass Triangle (15%); Marston's Pedigree (-1%); Courage Directors (-10%); Wadworth 6X (-20%); Flowers Original (-16%); Theakston XB (-20%); and Charles Wells Bombardier (-6%). The winners were: Greene King Abbot Ale (+6%) and Shepherd Neame Spitfire (+31%). However, Page said: "Watch out for Draught Bass (if Interbrew backs it), Pedigree (now Wolverhampton and Dudley is settled), Old Speckled Hen and Ruddles (both Greene King) and possibly Worthington 1744". Page said the industry was failing to understand the profile of cask ale consumers. He reported: "58.6% of consumers drink any alcohol, of those who do, 51.3% drink beer. Of those that drink beer only 28% drink ale or bitter and, of those, 28%, only 27.2% knowingly drink cask-conditioned ale." This equated to just one in every 26 beer drinkers choosing cask.

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