Craft brewers' boom
meets media silence
Britain's craft brewers, represented by SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, has announced an average 10.7% increase in retail sales for each member in the past year. This stunning success story -- at a time when giant global brewers are reporting a sharp downturn in sales in Britain -- has been met by a resounding silence by the media.
Sales of SIBA members amount to £320 million a year -- and that means a sizeable contribution to the government in terms of tax and duty. This remarkable boom in sales should make media headlines but the report has been met by a total news blackout.
Michael Hardman, SIBA's press officer, says: "This is a great British success story -- but nobody wants to know." The reason is not hard to understand: the media is obsessed with "24-hour" drinking" and "binge drinking" and doesn't want to write about a good beer story. As Hardman adds, "If you substituted 'beer' in the report with the word 'wine', the media would be falling over themselves to write glowing stories."
There is another positive side to the report. As SIBA's chief executive, Julian Grocock, says in his introduction, the success of his members is due to increasing concern by consumers about the quality of the food and drink they buy. They are concerned by localism and provenance -- they want to know that the beers they drink are made close to them and use natural ingredients grown in Britain. They are increasingly turning away from mass-marketed global brands that use inferior malts and hops.
Again, this is a positive message the media should be reporting. But even such intelligent outlets as the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme and the Guardian newspaper still prefer to endlessly talk about 24-hour drinking when no such thing exists.
Fortunately, even with no support from the press and broadcasting, craft brewers are bucking the trend, reporting booming sales, and proving that in the end quality and taste will win through.