Pub customers are overwhelmingly interested in drinking British beer, and licensees have a golden opportunity to tap into this compelling trend.
That is one of the headline findings from research conducted on behalf of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) by MCA, unveiled at its Beer X conference in Sheffield today (17 March).
SIBA polled both readers of the Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA) and the public in order to gain more understanding of consumer and licensee knowledge of, and interest in, British and locally brewed beer.
British beer has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance during the past few years as the number of brewers has boomed, choice has blossomed and drinkers are increasingly discerning in their tastes and preferences.
What is craft beer?
The largest share of agreement between licensees and consumers is that the best definition of craft beer is it is ‘made by small brewers rather than large corporations’. But more licensees define craft beer as ‘beer made by artisanal brewers’ and a greater number of consumers define it as ‘higher quality than mainstream beers’. The SIBA study says findings have implications for the way in which craft beer should be marketed to licensees and drinkers. More consumers link craft breweries to ‘making real ale’ than licensees.
More than half of licensees surveyed said their customers are ‘very interested’ in local or regionally brewed beer which, the research says, provides an opportunity for SIBA members — more than 800 independent breweries in the UK.
Licensees are responding to this explosion of interest with seven in 10 planning to stock more indepen-dent and/or locally or regionally brewed beers during the next two years. The majority also think that by stocking beers from independent breweries, it helps their pub stand out from the crowd — 93% think their beer range is a big influencer in the identity of their pub.
Four in 10 licensees said sales of British ale, lager and cider had increased within the past two to three years, again providing clear evidence of the bigger consumer trend of rising interest in the provenance of products. Looking solely at beer, almost one third of licensees said local or regional beers (those brewed within 50 miles of the pub) made up 50% or more of their beer sales.
Pub customers are drinking more traditional ales, craft and local beers, according to the survey, with consumers also reported to be drinking a broader mix of different beer styles. This means it’s more important than ever for licensees to get their range right in order to maximise sales.
When it comes to ways of encouraging customers to drink more beer in pubs, both licensees and consumers agree that stocking a good range of guest ales is crucial, although licensees rated it of greater importance than pubgoers.
Consumers highlighted ‘more British beers’ and the availability of free sample tasters as preferable ways to encourage beer sales. Interestingly, having more knowledgeable bar staff was ranked as third most important by licensees, but came way down the list when ranked by consumers. They were more interested in promotions, quality of serve and having a wider selection to choose from.
Try before you buy (TBYB) was named as the top method for encouraging customers to try a new beer — rated top by both licensees and consumers. However, a significantly bigger percentage of licensees than consumers felt it was most important, perhaps indicating that many drinkers are not that aware of the TBYB option. Staff recommendations are also more valued by licensees than consumers.
In terms of the main barriers to getting pubgoers to try new beers, about two thirds of consumers said they are ‘happy with their existing consumption’. More than a third said they didn’t like the taste of beer and a quarter said the inconsistent availability of preferences was an impediment.
This suggests new marketing initiatives need to be developed in outlet and by brewers to encourage drinkers to be more adventurous with their beer choices.