Local brewers chalk up success
While the overall UK beer market declined by 4.2% last year, the local brewing sector achieved an impressive 3.75% increase in volume sales. Threequarters of all local brewers recorded volume growth in 2009 and on average they achieved a 17% increase in turnover. And the number of pubs sourcing local beers through SIBA'S Direct Delivery Scheme (DDS) grew by 12% -- a reflection of local cask ale's unique ability to help pubs weather the recessionary storm.
SIBA's chief executive Julian Grocock said: "More than 60% of our members were founded after 2000, so the current recession is the most severe they have traded through. That the vast majority managed a sales uplift last year and are anticipating the same in 2010 speaks volumes about the resilience and resorcefulness of the UK's quality independent brewers."
This year's report from SIBA contains the organisation's pre-election manifesto, which highlights the current government's "schizophrenic" approach to the local brewing industry. The list leads with a call for a commitment to retain Progressive Beer Duty (PBD), introduced in 2002, and is followed by a series of other fiscal strategies such as cancelling the beer duty escalator, freezing beer duty and considering lower duty rates for lower-strength beers.
Julian Grocock says: "The government's support for PBD is welcomed and has helped the formation and growth of many smaller brewers, whom it claims to support. Yet, with its punitive taxation policies, which have meant a 20% rise in beer duty over the past two years, it appears set on destroying them.
"We urge, whoever is elected in May, to take a fresh look at the local brewing industry. Cask ale -- which accounts for more than 80% of SIBA members' output -- is a relatively low alcohol drink, served in the controlled environment of a pub where drinking is part of a social occasion, rather than an end in itself. As such, we deserve to be treated as part of the solution to alcohol-related harm, rather than being part of the problem."
The Local Brewing Industry Report says brewers continue to use PBD to build their businesses by adding capacity, buying new equipment and marketing their beers, while a sizeable minority also state an ambition to buy a pub during 2010.
SIBA members demonstrate exceptional green credentials. Some 80% are committed to reducing their energy use, more than half are looking at ways to reduce their packaging and "food miles", and a similar number source ingredients locally. Sixteen per cent either alerady brew organic beer or plan to do so.
*SIBA celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.