According to the most recent figures produced by the British Beer & Pub Association, total UK on-trade beer sales in 2010 were 14.2 million bulk barrels. This represents a decline of over 44% since in 1997, when the corresponding figure was 25.6 million barrels – and indeed a fall of over 60% since the 37 million barrel high point of the on-trade in 1979.
There hasn’t been a single quarter since 1997 when on-trade beer sales have shown a year-on-year rise. The biggest single year-on-year fall was 10.6% between the second quarters of 2007 and 2008, the first full year of the operation of the smoking ban. Between 1997 and 2007, the average annual decline was 3.5%. Over the past three years, that has accelerated to 7.3%. 2010 was 7.5% lower than 2009.
So, apologies to the Pollyannas of the beer world, but there’s precious little light at the end of the tunnel visible for pubs there. If the recent trends continue, in five years’ time the on-trade will be down below 10 million barrels a year.