The Grocer’s 2017 Top Products Survey, THE definitive guide to the current state of the UK’s grocery industry

Get stuffed, hipsters! As their thirst for craft ale grows, the rest of the UK is splashing out on lager. Not so much artisan pils made in small batches and put in even smaller cans but fizzy, yellow, mainstream lager.

Budweiser is 2017’s fastest-growing food or drink brand, up £49m. Lager’s £108.9m gain is the year’s third biggest, driven chiefly by global behemoths such as Bud owner AB InBev. The world’s biggest brewer now makes more than a third of all lager sold in UK grocers, delivering £99m of lager’s growth.

The caveat is that Brits are drinking less beer, but they’re spending (5.2%) more on it. Of course, brewers are not immune to the cost pressures all food & drink manufacturers are facing, but there are factors at play other than inflation simply being passed on.

Such as changing shopper behaviour, says ABI head of trade marketing Sharon Palmer. “The decline of the big weekly shop has had an effect on beer and cider. Consumers are opting for smaller packs and singles, and trying new products in smaller quantities.”

So mid-tier multipack brands are suffering. Carlsberg has lost £16.8m. Foster’s is down £36.3m, grocery’s second greatest loss this year, as ‘world’ lagers sold chiefly in singles and smaller packs such as Corona (up £21.5m) and Birra Moretti (up £6.7m) win shelf space.

No wonder Carlsberg is trumpeting its Danish roots in ads. “We did a cracking job with Export - we’ll be doing the same with Carlsberg, showing off the authenticity and provenance,” says UK CEO Julian Momen.

It makes sense. “World beer has a 45% premium. As it grows, it’s pulling overall prices up,” says Nielsen client business partner Helen Stares. “Retailers are pulling out mainstream SKUs and adding more craft beers.”

That’s not all. In cider, Kopparberg and Rekorderlig have made big gains as Bulmers and Stella Cidre have lost space. Indie BrewDog’s Punk, Dead Pony Club and Elvis Juice are ale’s three top growers, up £24.4m. That contrasts starkly with lager, where ABI’s Bud, Corona and Bud Light are top growers.

Still, BrewDog’s Kingpin lager has already hit sales of £1m following launch in 2016. The indies might yet have their day in lager.


bud light

Bud Light by AB InBev

This is the ultimate anti craft beer. Even its ads (for a ‘lighthearted beer for a try hard world’) seem to poke fun at craft beer-swilling hipsters. Packaged in 440ml cans (rather than the de rigueur 330ml) and selling at a price just below the market average, 3.4% abv Bud Light has filled some of the space vacated by Foster’s and Carlsberg in range rationalisations. So far it’s racked up £21m, making it lager’s third-fastest grower this year.

The Grocer Top Products Survey 2017: Up!