Lager has lost its fizz in grocery. Brewers this year waved goodbye to £575.2m as 282.4 million fewer litres went though tills – and just 12 brands achieved value growth.
“Sales are in double-digit decline as we lap the impacts of hospitality closures,” notes NielsenIQ analyst Rob Hallworth.
Of those that managed to grow share, the most impressive are new and nascent lines. Madrí Excepcional from Molson Coors and Spanish brewery La Sagra raked in £26.8m – the biggest absolute gain in lager. Launched into grocery in March, it benefited from an on-trade launch five months earlier.
Its off-trade rollout came just one month after that of Stella Artois Unfiltered, a premium, stronger spin-off (see Top Launch, below). It’s already worth £13.6m.
Bubbling just beneath Unfiltered are the reformulated BrewDog Lost Lager, Italian craft brand Birrificio Angelo Poretti Hops 4 and 4% abv Heineken Silver, which made its debut to much fanfare in the spring. They’ve generated £23.9m combined.
The success of these newbies underlines the growing thirst for posh lagers. Pricier old-timers such as Grolsch, Staropramen and Asahi Super Dry have grown value by 37.9%, 6.3% and 5.7% respectively.
“Premium is growing at the expense of mainstream and economy,” says Asahi UK marketing director Sam Rhodes. The economic squeeze may be a driver of this. Lager is recession-proof “to an extent”, he adds, as shoppers buy “less but better”.
That’s bad news for the four everyday brews atop the ranking. Stella Artois, Budweiser, Foster’s and Carling have suffered the biggest absolute losses: a combined total of £311.6m.
Still, brewers of lager and equally embattled ale can take some solace, Hallworth suggests. “Sales are more than £0.5bn higher versus the 52 weeks to September 2019, indicating a significant proportion of the beer that shifted to the off-trade during the pandemic has remained.”
Cidermakers have more cause to worry, though. Hallworth says the drink has “continued to decline versus both last year and pre-pandemic levels”.
Top Launch 2022
Stella Unfiltered | Budweiser Brewing
Here’s the latest spin-off from the UK’s biggest booze brand. It’s brewed without filtering, and uses the same barley and yeast as core Stella Artois. The addition of Mandarina Bavaria hop oil provides a fruitier, more citrus taste. At 5% abv, Unfiltered is stronger than the brand’s core lager, and it has greater appeal to the craft beer crowd. Rolled out in February, it was worth £13.6m in just six months – thanks in no small part to a TV ad in which a nude barman served glasses of Unfiltered to naked patrons.
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Alcohol – beer & cider 2022: Lager’s new players buck sales slump