UK: Home brewing sales shine in the gloom

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Demand for home brewing kits has reached unprecedented levels in the UK thanks to celebrity endorsements and the recession, suppliers say.

Beer sales may be at their lowest since the 1930s, but the home brewing sector is enjoying its best period for years, industry figures have told just-drinks.

A drop in consumer spending power, accentuated by the arrival of full-blown recession, and a host of endorsements by television celebrities, such as chef Gordon Ramsay, have breathed new life into the business.

Turnover at Youngs Home Brew, the country's largest home brew equipment wholesaler, is understood to have more than doubled in the last few months, compared to the same period in 2007.

Group technical advisor John Smith told just-drinks today (6 January) that orders reached unprecedented levels between August and Christmas. Autumn is traditionally a busier time for home brew suppliers, but Smith said: "I've been here for 20 years and I've never known it so busy in that time."

Most major drinks companies, including Diageo and Pernod Ricard, have said the economic downturn has accelerated a trend towards drinking at home in the UK, as well as in other hard-hit countries, like the US.

Smith said the credit crunch has had an effect on sales, but added: "The quality of the products is much better than even five years ago. Beer kits have really moved on and people are coming back to make it again and again."

Smith added that growing numbers of younger people have also shown an interest, helping to scrub the sector's image as an old man's arena.

Paul Green, of The Home Brew Shop, based in Farnborough, southern England, has also noticed a spike in sales.

He attributed this just as much to television coverage as the economic downturn, and particularly last year's televised attempt by Neil Morrissey to produce his own beer, Morrissey Fox. Gordon Ramsay also brewed his own beer on the F Word show.

Green said: "It puts it in people's minds. After Morrissey, everybody wanted to make beer like that. Even before the credit crunch, this kind of thing used to happen."

A boom in home brewing provides a further challenge to the pub sector, which is already struggling under the weight of duty tax hikes and rising retail alcohol sales.

Green said a home brew starter kit able to produce around 40 pints of beer would cost GBP50-60, but cost would fall dramatically after this initial outlay, to around GBP11 for fresh ingredients.   

Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Ricard

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