Some surprisingly positive figures from the latest BBPA Quarterly Beer Barometer, which shows a growth in overall beer sales for two consecutive quarters, the first time this has happened since 2004. However, within these figures there is strong growth for the off-trade set against a continued, albeit slower, decline for the on-trade. The off-trade has historically been more price-sensitive and more susceptible to changes in general economic sentiment, and it would seem that it has reaped most of the benefits of the cut in beer duty, combined with a rise in consumer confidence. While the price of beer has not in general fallen, a whole swathe of price increases has been skipped, which would probably have increased the price of a single PBA by 10p and a four-pack of Stella by 30p.
Looking at the figures on an annual basis, the total beer market is down by only 0.4%, the best figure since 2006, with the off-trade up by 3.2% and the on-trade down by 3.6%. For the past two quarters, off-trade sales have exceeded the on-trade, so it looks as though the tipping point when the balance of the market decisively swings is nearly upon us, after a period of a few years when the momentum had almost ground to a halt. In 1998, the off-trade accounted for 71% of the total market, compared with 51% over the whole of 2013 and 49% in the second half of the year.