• Brewers report higher sales & profits
  • Ale volumes ahead of the market
  • Continued focus on cost cutting
Greene King, Marstons upbeat despite tough beer market

Greene King, Marston's upbeat despite tough beer market

Greene King and Marston's have both continued to outperform the lacklustre beer market in the UK.

As both brewers released their latest results this week, Marston's has claimed a greater share of the UK's premium cask ale sector after reporting premium ale sales up by 3% in volume for the 52 weeks to 2 October. Net sales at Marston's Beer Co rose by 4.5% on the previous year, to GBP106m (US$165m), as the group's focus on regional ales paid dividends, it said yesterday (2 December).

The brewer's upbeat tone was echoed by rival Greene King today, adding more evidence that small-to-medium beer and pub companies have avoided the brunt of a tough period for the industry in general. 

Greene King's beer division reported own-brewed beer sales down by almost 4% for the 24 weeks to 17 October. However, this compares to a UK beer market that shrank by 7% over the same period and Greene King reported solid volume gains for its flagship Old Speckled Hen and Belhaven Best brands. Net sales at the group's brewing business rose by 2% to GBP46.3m, while operating profits increased by 3% to GBP10m.

Both Greene King and Marston's reported significant rises in group profits for their respective fiscal periods. Greene King said that net profits rose by 38% to GBP51.9m, partly boosted by lower one-off charges. Marston's, meanwhile, saw profits leap by 89% for its full-year, to GBP47.5m, as the group lapped one-off charges of GBP39m in its previous year.

The performances contrast markedly with those of larger pub groups Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns, which both reported losses last month.

Not that Greene King and Marston's are immune to the changing nature of the UK on-trade. Like their larger rivals, the two said that they have spent the last year increasing the food offering in their pub estates. Both are also planning to continue disposing of unprofitable pubs.