Ailing ales lose the battle to cling on in lager world

23 February, 2007

Only one brand is managing to keep the flag

flying for bitter in the top 10 league table as

consumers continue to gravitate to lighter

styles

Lager has all but conquered the world of beer brands. Only John Smith's Extra Smooth is hanging on in 10th position with 8 per cent value growth - which would be more encouraging if its volume growth wasn't nearly double at 14 per cent.

Put together the four non-lagers still in the top 20 beer brands - Guinness Draught, Guinness Original, Boddingtons and John Smith's - and you get less than 6 per cent of the £3.3 billion off-trade beer market. Market leader Stella Artois alone sells nearly three times that - despite losing 7 per cent volume and value during 2006.

John Smith's is the only one showing growth - Boddingtons' sales slipped 4 per cent, Guinness Original lost 9 per cent of its value and Guinness Draught lost 2 per cent, with similar volume drops.

Scottish & Newcastle UK continues to support John Smith's as ale's fortunes decline, notably with promotions and competitions around its Grand National sponsorship and its No Nonsense ad campaign which continues this year. Off-trade sales director Mark Gerken says: "Unlike our competitors, who have put all their effort, focus and attention behind lager, we have taken a portolio approach and kept supporting John Smith's."

Perhaps as interest grows in regional, bottle-conditioned and speciality beers, brands have become less important in the ale market than in the big name-dominated world of lager. At least off-trade sales are holding still - rather than dropping as they are in the on-trade, according to Nielsen Scantrack figures to Dec 2 2006.

It's not all sunshine in the lager camp either. The year's biggest losers are ­Grolsch, which continued its downhill trend with an 11 per cent drop in sales, Castlemaine XXXX, down 19 per cent, and Miller Beer, which lost 23 per cent.

Market leader Stella Artois's 7 per cent sales drop meant its share fell to 16.4 per cent of the off-trade beer market from 18 per cent last year. In the chasing pack Carling, Foster's and Carlsberg all managed to expand their shares - but not so much that Stella needs to fear for its head-and-shoulders lead.

A spokesman for supplier InBev UK says: "As market leader, Stella Artois is particularly subject to price-promotional activity by retailers seeking to drive footfall and this continues to be a factor in the brand's value performance. To put this in perspective, Stella Artois still has a 37 per cent share of the premium lager category, more than three times its nearest competitor at 11 per cent.

"We're confident the brand will maintain its lead."

Stablemate Beck's put in a stellar performance, powering into the top 10 from 14th place with a 45 per cent sales surge, and volumes rising 59 per cent - perhaps a worrying gap for InBev. A spokesman says: "The growth in sales is largely due to the fact that we've invested in the brand.

"Our heavyweight support and focus on Beck's has been mirrored by ­retailers who are responding to consumer demand. While the increased visibility is great for the brand, the increased promotional focus has, on occasion, been used to drive footfall. We'll be working with customers to get the balance right to help develop value with volume."

Meanwhile superstrength Carlsberg Special Brew and Tennent's Super sit in 13th and 14th place respectively. While other beers ' stars rise and fall, these two keep a loyal following without promotions or ad s, despite the growing lobby that says a drink containing more alcohol than the government says you should drink in a day shouldn't be sold in a single-serve can.

Tennent's Super boosted its sales by 1 per cent against a 2 per cent drop in volume.

Star performer

Carlsberg and Carlsberg Export

In a market constantly under fire for its deep discounting, it's good to see some major players putting growth back . Carlsberg Export boosted its sales by 23 per cent against 21 per cent volume growth, and Carlsberg saw value grow 20 per cent against a 19 per cent volume boost.

It looks like Budweiser got the long straw by sponsoring the World Cup ­overall, while Carlsberg tapped into patriotism by sponsoring the England team. Alongside its football ties, its witty Probably The Best ad campaign has run throughout the year, keeping the brand's profile high.

Top 20 beers

Position

Brand Supplier Sales £m % Change

1 Stella Artois InBev UK 535.5 -7

2 Carling Coors 371.0 5

3 Foster's Scottish & Newcastle UK 318.1 14

4 Carlsberg Carlsberg UK 193.2 20

5 Budweiser Anheuser-Busch 158.4 -2

6 Kronenbourg 1664 Scottish & Newcastle UK 132.1 3

7 Carlsberg Export Carlsberg UK 127.9 23

8 Grolsch Coors 101.4 -11

9 Beck's InBev UK 67.3 45

10 John Smith's Extra Smooth Scottish & Newcastle UK 64.9 8

11 Guinness Draught Diageo 64.6 -2

12 Tennent's InBev UK 63.8 8

13 Carlsberg Special Brew Carlsberg UK 49.8 -2

14 Tennent's Super InBev UK 44.5 1

15 Castlemaine XXXX

InBev UK 42.6 -19

16 San Miguel Scottish & Newcastle UK 37.5 17

17 Boddingtons InBev UK 35.7 -4

18 Guinness Original Diageo 29.2 -9

19 Miller Beer Miller Brewing Company 24.6 -23

20 Heineken Heineken UK 23.4 1

Nielsen MAT to Dec 30 2006, GB off-trade




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