by MA Reporter A greater unity of purpose is emerging among brewers and retailers about the key issues that need to be addressed if beer is to maintain popularity, Interbrew has claimed in its market overview publication Update. The brewer claims there is a growing appreciation across the industry of the pressing need to improve the consumer drinking experience. It adds that "companies are investing to deliver higher standards through focusing on initiatives such as chilling and dispense technology that will improve beer quality, both in the take home and on-trade markets". The Update report emphasises the urgent need to address on-trade quality by highlighting AC Nielsen figures which show that beer now accounts for less than one in six drinks served in the on-trade largely because of the growing challenge of wine and ready-to-drink beverages (RTDs). Steve Cahillane, the new regional president for Interbrew UK & Ireland, also touches on the quality issue in his introduction. "The on-trade has a new competitor. It is no longer just the pub, club or wine bar down the road. "The challenge is now also coming from the leisure experience consumers can have at home or when they visit a friend's house for a barbecue, party or social occasion. "To win new customers and continue to satisfy their existing clientele, the pub experience must be better than the one people can have drinking at home. Pub retailers have to raise their game: product quality is absolutely central in this, but all elements of the pub experience from friendly and well-trained bar staff to a clean, welcoming environment have a part to play. We are continuing to work with retailers on product quality initiatives to help them improve their consumer offering to counter the growing challenges to on-trade drinking." Update reveals that the value of on-trade sales in the 12 months to July 2003 totalled almost £12.6bn, the same as the previous year. The volume of on-trade sales during the same period totalled just over 21 million barrels a fall of 4%. This contrasts with the takehome market which enjoyed 4% value and 3% volume increases. National demise National brewers now account for just 3% of UK pub ownership, with pub companies accounting for 76% and regional/local brewers 21%. "Even that 3% share will disappear very soon once Scottish & Newcastle, the last vertically integrated national brewer, completes the agreed sale of its managed pub estate to Spirit Group.