New survey reveals average beer sales down by 82 per cent - with craft breweries hardest hit

A new survey has thrown up some grim results from the brewing industry - as beer sales fall rapidly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Published 17th Apr 2020
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

Results released from a survey of small independent breweries across the UK show on average, beer sales are down by 82 per cent since the outbreak of Covid-19, with many businesses struggling to survive.

Eight out of 10 brewers do not believe the Government is doing enough to support them with more than half (54 per cent) of the UK’s independent breweries being unable to access any Government support. Nearly a third (29 per cent) are now considering redundancies.

Despite beer production being part of the food supply chain - meaning brewers are designated key workers - with pubs, bars and restaurants closed the main route to market for independent breweries has been entirely cut-off, leading to 65 per cent of breweries stopping production altogether.

The survey of 282 UK breweries by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) reveals the devastating impact of the Covid-19 lockdown measures on one of the UK’s most successful manufacturing industries.

James Calder, SIBA’s chief executive said: “Unlike the global beer brands who can supply supermarkets in great volume, small independent breweries sell the majority of their beer through pubs, bars and restaurants, meaning the lockdown measures have hit them much harder.

"While many have launched local delivery services or online shops to try to stay afloat, the increase in online sales is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall decrease their beer sales have seen

“Pubs, bars and restaurants have been receiving help from the Government, but none of the same schemes apply to our small breweries who saw their sales fall off a cliff almost overnight. They urgently need a package of measures to keep them going otherwise many won’t be able to reopen.”

Rise in delivery services

The survey shows that 70 per cent of breweries are offering new delivery or takeaway services in order to help supply their local communities with quality independent craft beer, with around 61 per cent of those breweries now offering free delivery to local beer lovers.

SIBA are calling on Government to relax licensing laws to allow the one in four breweries who don’t have the relevant licenses in place to deliver beer direct to consumers in a variety of ways.

The trade association say this should come as part of a targeted package of support for breweries and the brewery supply chain to match the level received by pubs, including making the grants and exemptions from business rates offered to pubs applicable to breweries.

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In addition beer duty payments, which are often a brewers single biggest cost which account for 35 per cent of turnover should be deferred by Government to help weather this storm.

The trade association is also working with beer consumer group CAMRA on the ‘Pulling Together’ initiative, which links independent breweries and pubs offering beer delivery and takeaway services with beer lovers across the UK.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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