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Beer and food: the perfect partnership

By Neil Gannon

- Last updated on GMT

TABFT's Neil Gannon: "Consumers want to be surprised and delighted and beer and food pairings are a great way to achieve this."
TABFT's Neil Gannon: "Consumers want to be surprised and delighted and beer and food pairings are a great way to achieve this."

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With sales of beer in growth and with record numbers of brewers across the UK, there’s never been a better time to promote beer and food matches in pubs says Neil Gannon head of marketing of There’s A Beer For That campaign.

At the start of 2015 the British Beer & Pub Association announced that beer sales were back in growth for the first time in 11 years and over 1,285 breweries are now operating in the UK.

Shortly after this news AB InBev launched a mobile platform to inspire consumers to pair beer and food, while Budweiser’s summer campaign was focused on a Budweiser beer being the perfect match with a burger or BBQ food.

In addition, more pubs across the UK are beginning to incorporate beer not only on to their drinks menu with tasting notes, styles and ABV, but also into their food menu with great pairings. Beer and food matching is nothing new – the Belgians have been doing it for centuries – but more people are now buying into the concept, and it is a great opportunity for our sector.

Consumers want to be surprised and delighted and beer and food pairings are a great way to achieve this.

Hosting beer and food pairing events is a great way to educate consumers

It’s clear there’s a change in the way beer is consumed. With perception and consumption of beer now viewed in a similar way to wine; consumers are looking to spend more money on quality beers to accompany their meal and want to explore new products.

The recent explosion in microbreweries in the capital alone, now totalling 72, is a further reflection of this and recent research by There’s A Beer for That​ suggests a thirst for knowledge when it comes to beer and food pairings.

Increasing sales and loyalty

There is a clear opportunity to capitalise on this trend. Beer’s natural flavour profiles and intensity can offer the perfect compliment to a range of foods, both enhancing and complimenting key elements of the dish. Introducing food-pairing menus can maximise consumer education.

Delivering a new and innovative consumer experience has also been seen to positively affect not only revenue and sales, but additionally increase consumer loyalty.

Expanding your offering

Introducing beer and food pairing as a new offering doesn’t have to be costly; simple changes can have a huge impact. Pairing different meals from an existing menu with different beers is a good place to start; it introduces the concept in a recognisable way and doesn’t impact too much on budgets.

For those who do want to offer a bespoke beer and food menu, creating around five or six different dishes will ensure consumers have enough choice without being overwhelmed.

Utilising daily specials and seasonally available ingredients, as well as limited-edition brews, will ensure you cater for those who are new to the concept and those who are more adventurous.

Using a wide range of beer styles is a great way of demonstrating the versatility of beer. You could also look to work with a local beer expert, or even consider taking a beer foundation course to increase your own knowledge

At a very basic level, discussing different beers with your supplier ensures that you are keeping up with any new trends and offering as much as possible to the consumer and using online tools like Beer Explorer enables you to increase your know-ledge as a publican.

Educating staff

Influencing consumer behaviour at point of sale is integral to the success of any new promotion and assigning extra resource to training staff will prove a wise investment. To ensure staff are confident in recommending beer and food pairings, you may want to consider a few initiatives:

  • Host a tasting session so staff can sample the new beer and food pairings
  • Hold a training day with a local beer expert, sommelier or your head chef to teach staff about the different flavours and styles of beer and why they work will allow this information to filter down to the consumer
  • Encourage staff to recommend different beers and to offer samples to customers first
  • Encourage them to have some fun and use tools such as There’s A Beer For That’s #BeerMatch to recommend their own ideas around beer and food matches if appropriate

Beer and food pairing events

Hosting bespoke beer and food pairing events is a great way to introduce and to educate consumers on the concept. You can look to get a local beer expert or chef involved, and you can even theme them around topical or calendar events such as Christmas.

Point-of-sale and marketing materials

Having strong point-of-sale and marketing materials will help to educate consumers on beer and food pairing.

Ensure that these are easy to understand and that they explain why the beer pairs well with the food, emphasising the quality, diversity and versatility of beer.

Case Study – Nicholson’s Dine with Beer

Recently Nicholson’s launched Dine with Beer, a unique way that consumers can be encouraged to consider pairing their food with beer rather than the more traditional wine matches.

Launched across its entire estate in June this year, the six-week promotion enabled consumers to choose a selection of meals that had been expertly matched thanks to There’s A Beer For That and expert beer sommelier Jane Peyton.

Based on the realisation that while many people drink and enjoy beer, many would not consider it with food. By offering customers easily digestible and highly visual advice and guidance publicans can make a real difference to purchase.

Overall participating Nicholson’s pubs saw positive reactions from both staff and consumers as well as enjoying a percentage uplift in beer sales.

As a result Nicholson’s helped educate consumers while also encouraging them to consider and explore beer and now plan to introduce further Dine With Beer promotions to run during the Rugby World Cup.

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