Keeping up the quality to satisfy demanding consumers is a big issue for the beer industry, claims Interbrew UK. In its annual report on the market managing director Stewart Gilliland said: "The quality threshold is forever moving upwards as consumers become more demanding and their choice of leisure options grows broader. "Suppliers and retailers in every other market in the UK have had to improve their quality in recent years to stay in touch with customers' demands. I believe 2001 is the time when this industry must start delivering." At the same time the industry has to manage the fast pace of change. Within the report Sainsbury's general manager for beers, wines and spirits, Allan Webb said: "Almost every part of our business needs to be reinvented on a regular basis. It is imperative to develop a robust understanding of consumer requirements. The industry needs more innovation to fend off challenges from new drinks. "For many social occasions a bottle of lager and a flavoured alcoholic beverage are interchangeable. "Developing beer's role with food as opposed to wine offers further opportunities." He also said price and margin issues needed to be addressed. In many retailers, spirits and wine are more profitable, which is putting pressure on beer. Total UK beer retail sales last year were worth £14.37bn, 1% down on 1999. Within that take home sales were static at £2.29bn. Multiple grocers had sales of £1.22bn (+2%) while independents were static at £527m. The growing importance of convenience retailing was emphasised by a 40% value increase last year to £231m. {{DRINKS }}