Cask sales ‘under serious threat’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Information provided: the SIBA Craft Beer Report 2022 is being launched today (Thursday 17 March) at BeerX UK 2022 in Liverpool
Information provided: the SIBA Craft Beer Report 2022 is being launched today (Thursday 17 March) at BeerX UK 2022 in Liverpool

Related tags Beer Cask ale Craft beer Lager Society of independent brewers

Traditional cask beer is “under serious threat” due to consumer drinking habits changing to ordering online and drinking more at home, according to a new report.

The SIBA Craft Beer Report 2022​, which has been produced by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) looked into the market for this year.

It also found overall beer sales across the whole market in 2021 fell by 14.2% on 2019 pre-pandemic levels with small independent breweries suffering with production levels dropping by an average of 40% in 2020 and 16% in 2021, compared to 2019.

When broken down into segments of the beer market for the on-trade, standard lager volume sales saw the biggest drop of 48.2% in 2021 compared to 2019, according to data cited from CGA in the report.

In addition, non-craft cask ale sales slipped by a similar proportion (47.7%), followed by craft cask ale (37.9%) and craft lager (33.4%).

Volume sales of craft keg ale decreased by more than a quarter (29.6%) and speciality lager by 16.4%.

Casualty of the pandemic

SIBA chief executive James Calder said: “Cask beer was sadly a casualty of the pandemic as when pubs close, small independent breweries lose the only place they can sell traditional cask beer.

“Because of this, we have seen a huge wave of breweries creating webshops and on-site brewery shops and many putting their beer into bottles and cans for the first time.”

The report also revealed cask beer makes up less than half (46%) of small brewers production, compared to 67% in 2019.

However, a third of SIBA member breweries launched a webshop during the pandemic and 40% now have a physical shop.

A consumer poll conducted by YouGov and commissioned by SIBA of 2,000 UK consumers in late January 2022, revealed price has become less of a factor for drinkers when they are deciding to buy a craft beer.

In 2020, 42% said price was important in this decision however for 2022, this has fallen to 39%.

Furthermore, the research also found three quarters (75%) of beer drinkers deemed it important that their local pub offered a range of craft beers from small breweries.

Growing emphasis on provenance

Report editor Caroline Nodder said: “This shows the growing emphasis consumers place on the provenance of the beers they buy and this is a trend that has certainly been accelerated by the pandemic.

“Consumers are increasingly seeking out smaller artisan producers and expect their products to be available at retail.”

The figure on importance of small breweries being featured in local pubs rises to 81% among the women surveyed – indicating provenance is even more important to female consumers – a part of the market small independent brewers continue to attract, according to SIBA.

Half (50%) of the total number of people polled said the producer should be small and a similar proportion (48%) said it should be independent. Just 3% of participants believe craft beer can be made by a big global brewer.

Calder added: “It is clear over the past two years, people across the UK have sought out local producers – whether that means supporting their local butcher, baker or brewer.

“More and more people are discovering the amazing range of beers now being brewed locally and increasingly hold the view a craft beer should be made by a small independent brewery.

“Hopefully, as the industry begins to get back up to full steam, we will see more pubs and retailers stocking the independent craft beers consumers have discovered over the past year years.”

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