Greene King beats UK beer market

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The Independent Online

Greene King's cask ale brands continued to outperform the UK beer market over the wet summer months, reflecting a wider resurgence for real ale.

While most beer companies have experienced a torrid summer as lager sales have fallen, Greene King said yesterday volumes of the company's cask ale brands, which are all brewed at its site at Bury St Edmunds, were up 10 per cent during the 17 weeks to 26 August, led by double-digit growth in Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale.

Lager sales figures have been suffering from a comparison with last year's hot summer when beer sales were booming during the football World Cup tournament. A spokesman for Greene King said real ale performed better when the weather was poor, because in hot weather consumers often prefer an ice-cold lager.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said the figures from Greene King were reflective of a wider trend. "The interest in real ale has been fuelled by concerns over where beer has come from and a trend for local beers," Camra spokesman Owen Morris said. "Small regional breweries are springing up all over the country."

He said smaller breweries had benefited from progressive beer duty which enables them to pay reduced tax on the beer they produce. Meanwhile, figures from analysts TNS Worldpanel recently revealed the market for real ale sold in shops rose last year. Bottled ale sales increased by 8.4 per cent in 2006.

Greene King is to launch one its largest on-trade promotional campaigns this week linked to its sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup, with England Rugby branded merchandise across its pubs. The company told shareholders at its annual meeting profit expectations for the full-year were unchanged and added it remains well placed to meet the challenges of the smoking ban. Like-for-like sales across the managed pub divisions were "slightly ahead of last year" while in the company's tenancy and lease division sales growth was 1 per cent.