The premium lager market in the UK is set to contract going forward, according to a recent report.

In its Premium Lagers, Beers & Ciders Market Report, released yesterday (9 July), market intelligence provider Key Note has forecast that the market for premium lager is likely to contract markedly over the coming years in terms of the number of major brands competing.

The company believes that there are now only a handful of major brand owners with the financial muscle to promote beer brands at the required level of marketing investment.

While premium lager, defined by Key Note as being either high in alcohol or high in quality with a retail price minimum, has offered healthy returns for brewers over the last 20 years, the sector has stalled thanks in part to the introduction of "sub-premium" brands such as Anheuser-Busch InBev's  Beck's Vier and Stella Artois 4%.

Consolidation of the global brewing industry can also be held responsible for any future decrease, the company added. "Given these changes in ownership and the trend towards mid-strength lagers and ciders, the prospects for the premium category are muted, with far fewer lager brands likely to be promoted in the future," Key Note said.

"Having already cut back heavily on promoting the dark beers they inherited when moving into the UK market, expanding companies such as AB Inbev, Heineken and Carlsberg now have to take stock of their lager portfolios and choose between brands."

Premium dark beers, however, may benefit from the lower support multinational owners are giving to their standard dark beers, benefiting small-scale UK brewers.

Cider is likely to lose some of its fashionable status, but its rise has been beneficial in introducing UK drinkers to ciders from 'craft' makers, and could take advantage of a renewed interest in pear cider, the company said.