Greene King raises its glasses to 2010

The overall beer market has seen some challenging times with beer sales slumping by a further 4% in the year to September 5, according to Nielsen, although in the off-trade channel which accounts for 43% of volumes value rose by 4%. And for once ale grew faster than lager, with a 7% uplift in value, spurred on by a growing interest in premium bottled beers from regional and microbrewers.

Greene King says that premium ale in particular is performing well and there is still a huge opportunity for bottled ales, which delivered almost 50% of all sales value in the impulse ale category.

Neil Jardine, director of take home and export for Greene King, says: “Many of our brands have driven sales growth and we have a strong and consistent record in this channel, but one of the most successful brands and arguably one of the most important brands, outperforming the category, is Old Speckled Hen, which has delivered 27% of all ale growth in the impulse market over the year.

“As ever, driving penetration in the current climate is always tough.

“However, given the growth in the bottled ale category, and the potential for superior margins, wholesalers and retailers should be working together to get the basics right (distribution, availability, display and promotions) and offering more space to bottled ales.”

Greene King has worked hard to promote its Old Speckled Hen brand which is currently sponsoring prime time on TV channel Dave. Greene King estimated that 2.3 million 25 to 50-year-old male, ale and lager drinkers would be more likely to buy Old Speckled Hen.

Abbot Ale also has idents on Dave, sponsoring Friday Nights on Dave and featuring Brian Blessed.

Greene King has links with sport as Greene King IPA is the official beer of England rugby, and Lawrence Dallaglio, former England rugby captain, is the brand’s rugby ambassador. Greene King IPA also sponsors Harlequins, London Wasps and Sale Sharks Premiership rugby teams.

Jardine says: “The wholesale channel is very important with importance growing each year. Greene King is responding to the changing market by committing increased amounts of resource and support to the channel and highlighting the margin enhancing opportunities that bottled ale brings to the drinks sector.

“We have invested money in depots, providing unique and informative displays to help drive up-lift and have introduced bespoke packs for the channel, such as the recent Westgate Cellar a mixed case with award winning bottled ales in one convenient pack.”

With the credit crunch still taking hold, despite claims that the recession is now over, evenings at home are proving to be more popular than ever. Commenting on this current trend, Jardine says: “We expect that bottled ales will continue to be one of the star performing categories, with penetration growing at 11% (TNS) year on year when beer penetration is only growing at 1%, there are clearly further opportunities in the bottled ale category.

“All licensed retailers should be stocking bottled ales.

“This category has matured and progressed a long way over the last few years and it is therefore no longer a niche but a must stock category.”

He adds: “We will work with wholesalers and cash and carry operators to tailor our support and provide maximum impact for their business and continue to heavily invest in our brands.”

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