COMMENT: UK still a nation of beer lovers
The wider availability of new technology, such as home entertainment systems and broadband Internet connections, is encouraging consumers to stay at home rather than go out to pubs or bars.
Changes in consumer behaviour and in the retail environment are slowly challenging the pub's position as the main purveyor of beer and other alcoholic beverages. Several factors have combined to encourage this shift in consumer behaviour. The latest of these is the increasing affordability of state-of-the-art home entertainment systems and their ensuing increased penetration. These have contributed to making an evening at home an increasingly attractive offer, compared with the traditional expedition to the pub. This affects sales of beer in particular, more so than other alcoholic beverages.
Evolving trends in retail are also contributing to the growth of the off-trade's share of the overall UK beer market. Supermarket discounts and consumers' bulk buying have contributed heavily to this evolution. This pricing trend has encouraged consumers to buy beer for home consumption rather than to drink in the much more expensive pubs and bars.
Social trends have also undermined sales of draught lagers and ale, such as the increasing acceptability of drinking out of a can, and the decline in the after-work drinking occasion. When colleagues do drink together, they tend to drink wine rather than beer, partly because of the growing proportion of female employees, but also because of a shift in British drinking culture.
At the moment, approximately 39% of beer sales are realised through the off-trade, compared with only 14% in 1982. However the switch to supermarket shopping isn't all bad news for pubs. Pubs have become less reliant on beer sales as consumers' tastes become more diverse.
However, the growing trend to merge the workplace and home, a result of the wide availability of affordable broadband connection, and the resulting loss of social interaction, has left some concerned that this could lead to significant numbers of consumers being alienated and cut off.
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