The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) were predictably downbeat in announcing the results of their latest quarterly statistical survey of beer volumes. They highlighted the fact that, in the second quarter of 2012, beer sales were 5.3% down on the same quarter last year, with the off-trade actually falling slightly more than the on-trade, blaming it on above-inflation duty rises. However, single quarter comparisons are vulnerable to one-off factors, and last year we had some glorious Spring weather, whereas this year it was mostly dismal.
More meaningful are the full year figures, which actually only show a 1.2% overall decline, with the on-trade 3.4% down and the off-trade 1.2% up. That’s actually one of the smallest annual falls for a number of years. This could even be regarded as giving grounds for a touch of qualified optimism.
Interestingly, since the figures issued for the year to the end of December, the BBPA seem to have rebased this series of statistics, resulting in an increase of 2.3 million barrels for 2011, and similar rises in the earlier years, although the year-on-year movements remain much the same. I have e-mailed them to ask how this has been arrived at.
Edit: I received a very prompt response to say that the figures had been rebased to take better account of production volumes of, and imports by, non-BBPA members. It gives a somewhat better picture of the health of the overall beer market, although of course that might potentially be used as a justification for further restrictions by the government.