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New handbook highlights fall in UK alcohol consumption


Dramatic changes in the UK beer market are revealed in the latest edition of the BBPA Statistical Handbook, published this week by the British Beer & Pub Association. Falling UK alcohol consumption, the rise of bottled and canned beer over draught, and the average price of a British pint are among the many key facts featured in this brand new edition.

When it comes to separating the myths from the facts around alcohol consumption in the UK, this new handbook provides much food for thought. Some of the new BBPA statistics are at odds with claims of ever rising growth in UK alcohol consumption per head. BBPA and HM Revenue & Customs figures show that alcohol consumption fell in 2008, and is 6.1 per cent lower than in 2004.

The publication also sheds light on many key current trends affecting the brewing industry. A fundamental trend from draught to packaged beer sales passed a major milestone in 2008, when packaged sales overtook traditional draught beer sales volumes for the first time. The trend reflects the long-term growth in supermarket and off-trade sales and the huge pressure on Britain’s pubs, where BBPA figures show closure rates now running at 52 per week. In 2008, draught sales slipped from 52 per cent of the beer market to 49 per cent.

A typical pint of lager costs £2.81 – up five pence on 2008. A typical pint of bitter now costs £2.49 – up eight pence. British consumption of alcohol per head remains in the mid range compared with our European neighbours. Britons drink less than the French, Germans, and Spanish, with the Czechs drinking the most per head, at 12.4 litres of alcohol, compared to the UK’s 8.1 litres.

BBPA Acting Chief Executive, David Long, comments:

“Our new Statistical Handbook will confound many of the myths surrounding trends in the UK drinks industry. Year on year, we are not drinking more. Nor is British beer getting stronger, with two thirds of our beer at or below 4.2 per cent strength, compared to the continental standard of 5 per cent. These facts, along with thousands of others, make this publication an essential tool for anyone with an interest in an industry that is so vital to the UK economy.”

Notes to editors:

The BBPA’s Statistical Handbook 2009 is a vital resource for anyone interested in the UK drinks industry. Most tables provide historic trends going back between five and 100 years. Data is gathered from a wide variety of sources and many tables are derived from surveys of members and other research exclusive to the BBPA. Copies are available from the British Beer & Pub Association, priced £47.50, and can be purchased via the BBPA's website at Further details are available here.

The British Beer & Pub Association is the UK’s leading organisation representing the brewing and pub sector. Its members account for 98% of the beer brewed in the UK and own nearly two thirds of Britain’s 54,000 pubs.

Statistical highlights:

Packaged sales (bottles and cans) overtook draught sales (kegs and casks) in terms of volume of beer sold in the UK in 2008 (table A11)

27 per cent of on-trade wine sales were in the London area compared to only 16 per cent of beer sales (table D4)

Total expenditure on alcohol in the hospitality sector (on-trade) was at its lowest level since 1972 (table E5)

Average price of a pint of beer in tenanted/leased pubs was £2.66, the same as in independent pubs (table E13)

Brewing companies own 9,100 of UK pubs, 16 per cent of total (table G5)

At 12.4 litres per capita, the Czech Republic is the largest consumer of alcohol in the EU (table K8)

The BBPA’s analysis of alcohol consumption figures give the following results (source: BBPA and HM Revenue and Customs, BBPA Statistical Handbook 2009)

UK Consumption of alcohol

Litres per head of 100% alcohol

1980 7.4

1990 7.9

1998 7.9

1999 8.3

2000 8.4

2001 8.7

2002 9.1

2003 9.2

2004 9.5

2005 9.4

2006 9.0

2007 9.2

2008 8.9

Britons drink less alcohol per head than most other European Union countries. While a few countries, such as Italy and Greece, record lower per-head consumption, the latest BBPA Statistical Handbook data show that 13 EU countries across western and central Europe drink more than the Brits - including the French, Germans, Danes and Spanish.

The UK Government continues to enjoy very healthy tax revenues from the alcohol sector, with income from excise duties and VAT reaching £14.7 billion in 2008/2009. Taxes on Britain's beer alone raised nearly £6 billion.


For further information contact:

Neil Williams
Head of Media
Tel: 020 7627 9156 / 07974 249 779

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