BrewDog's Black Heart sales strong in 2023 off-trade results

The biggest lager brands saw sales slump, but new beer category entrants’ sales are sparkling

Since the summer shake-up of alcohol duty, beers below 3.5% abv have benefited from lower rates. This is expected to drive “an influx of NPD” with “the potential to revitalise the category”, says NIQ senior client insight partner Rob Hallworth.

The innovation has already begun. In lager, there’s the 3.3% abv Brisk and 3.4% Rosa Blanca. They’re the type of hip launches the sector is thirsty for. Lager’s sales are in better shape than last year, but they’re still lacking fizz. In 2022, we reported a 12.5% loss on volumes down 282.4 million litres. This time, value has scraped into the black by 0.5%, but 86.5 million fewer litres went through tills.

Stella, Bud and Carling sales down in 2023

This volume loss has mostly affected mainstream brands. Top three UK lager brands Stella Artois, Budweiser and Carling are down a total of 46 million litres. “Mainstream lager brands continue to struggle as consumers look for more premium offerings,” says Hallworth.

Meanwhile, newer lagers continue to build momentum. Take Madrí Exceptional, which entered grocery in March 2022. Having shifted an extra 20.7 million litres and gained £66.6m, it’s now closing in on the top 10.


Other 2022 launches are also making gains in both value and volumes. Stella Artois Unfiltered and Heineken Silver have grown value by 94.3% and 27.2% respectively.

The latter’s longer-established stablemates have been less fortunate. Heineken’s eponymous lager, Foster’s, Birra Moretti,  Desperados and Red Stripe are all in volume decline, shedding £48.2m between them.

Rise of Spanish lager sees new category brands

In a bid to recoup losses, Heineken brought veteran Spanish lager Cruzcampo to the UK off-trade in August.

A similar pattern persists in other sectors of beer and cider. In ale & stout – with the exception of Guinness – old-school brews like Old Speckled Hen, Doom Bar and Hobgoblin are struggling, while trendier beers such as Beavertown Neck Oil, Brewdog Hazy Jane and Camden Pale are enjoying soaring sales.

In cider, market leader Strongbow has similarly lost its sparkle, while Thatchers Blood Orange, Henry Westons Vintage and Inch’s are the big winners. They’ve added a combined £30.3m in a sector down £4.5m. 

Top Launch 2023

Black Heart | BrewDog

Black_Heart_Hero_Can_transparent_No_Spritz HR

BrewDog parked its tanks on Guinness’s lawn in February with the launch of Black Heart nitro stout. The 4.1% brew rolled into Tesco with the claim that stout choices were “not so black and white anymore”. Black Heart has so far racked up £2.9m – with sales rocketing 30% after a wider rollout in September, according to BrewDog. The beer is also successfully recruiting new drinkers to craft beer. The brewer says at least one in five Black Heart buyers go on to make a repeat purchase in the sector.

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