While mainstream beers dominate in terms of share, the segment’s sales are slipping as consumers look to world beers and low/no options.

According to a report from drinks company Babco, using data from NIQ, the total value of the UK off-trade beer market for the year to July 2023 was just over £5 billion. The mainstream segment, which Babco describes as established brands that are often mass-produced, is by far the biggest, with a value of £2.9 billion. However, the segment saw sales slip 3.3% in the 12-month period.

Elsewhere, world and discovery beers, described as often imported and with a price premium, saw sales rise 7.5% to around £1.65 billion. Low and no alcohol beers saw the biggest increase – up 19.7% to £128 million – albeit from the smallest base.  Off-trade craft sales for the year to July came in flat – down 0.7% to £315 million.

“Mainstream has really suffered with heavy promotional activity to match volume numbers year on year,” says Lewis Bowen, CEO, Babco. “World/discovery beers have benefitted hugely in the latest 52 weeks, with consumers trading up and new launches coming from key brands adding £114 million to plug the losses from mainstream. Q4 will be a telling time to understand if consumers will stay loyal to new habits.”

He says consumer habits are shifting towards “true authentic” world flavours in beer, which often means products that are brewed in their home market.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how the evolving discussions around sustainability factor into consumer preferences when choosing to buy imported or domestically-produced beer.