Beer sales increase demonstrating COVID recovery

Beer sales increase

Beer sales in the UK are recovering to pre-pandemic levels, with 4.6 billion litres of beer sold* in 2021, up 13% from 4.1 billion in 2020, a new study from national accountancy group UHY Hacker Young shows. The increase is equivalent to 1.1 billion pints of beer.

James Simmonds, Partner at UHY Hacker Young, says that people drinking at home during the height of the pandemic replaced beer with wine or spirits, resulting in a 13% fall in beer sales in 2020. Now pubs have reopened, beer sales have swiftly recovered to 98% of their pre-pandemic 2019 level.

Beer sales over the last three years

Beer sales figures from 2019 to 2020 and 2021

Why have the sales of beer increased?

Many people feel that beer is better-suited to longer, social drinking sessions. As people opted to drink at home during the repeated lockdowns, many preferred to drink wine or spirits.

During lockdown, wine sales increased to 112m litres in 2020, up from 84m in 2019, while spirit sales increased to 10.9m litres from 7.4m over the same period. However, they both subsequently suffered from pubs reopening, with a drop in sales equivalent to 5.2 million bottles of wine (3%) and 1.8 million bottles** of spirits (12%) in 2021 compared to 2020.

James Simmonds comments: “The pandemic saw a sudden shift in people’s drinking habits, with a move away from beer. That seems to have been temporary – we are now seeing consumers flooding back to beer.”

“It was a good summer for beer sales, with football’s European Championships providing a welcome sales boost for pubs.”

James Simonds adds that some small breweries may have only held licenses to sell to the pub trade, but not to sell directly to the public. Many breweries potentially struggled to acquire licenses to begin direct sales to the public quickly when the pandemic began, contributing to a downturn in 2020 sales.

*Cleared for sale on the market

**Wine and spirits bottles are both 750ml measurements