The number of households buying beer is in decline and this has been highlighted as one of the key issues facing the take home brewers. Analysis by Taylor Nelson Sofres shows penetration of UK households fell by 3.7% between February 1998 and February 1999, although it had stabilised by the beginning of this year as a result of the millennium sales boost. Lager has been performing well, but over the last two years the number of households purchasing ale declined by 1.2 million. This trend has been masked by the fact that overall off-trade volumes are growing. Scottish Courage estimates that for the year to the end of April they will be up 4%. The on-trade is declining by 4%, which results in the total beer market falling by 1.4%. Scottish Courage marketing director Brian Sharp said: "Penetration is the biggest single issue facing the take home beer market. People drink lots of different things. Beer only accounts for 30% of their spend on alcohol. We have to have products that grab more of that share." Consumers buy more beer in the summer and there is an opportunity to capitalise on this trend. Sharp said Scottish Courage was in a good position to capitalise on this. "We intend to be the brewer that delivers a beer or a pack type for every drinking occasion. This means we have a wide portfolio and a lot of stock keeping units. We have a greater share of skus (33%) than our market share (28%)." The size of beer purchases per trip is increasing as a result of the emphasis on multipacks. Last year it went from 3.6 litres to four litres. This has led to an increased spend per trip ­ up from £5.59 to £6.16 last year. {{DRINKS }}