Marston’s toasts strong beer sales

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The maker of Pedigree and Banks’s beer has delivered market-beating sales figures after a winter boosted by England’s Ashes cricket triumph.

Marston’s said own-brewed beer volumes jumped 4% on a year ago in the 23 weeks to March 12, compared with a decline of around 7% for the wider UK ale market.

As sponsor of the England team, the Pedigree brand received a publicity boost from the Ashes in Australia as sales of bottled ale leapt 16% across the portfolio, which also includes the brands Banks’s and Jennings.

Elsewhere in the business, its managed pubs division saw like-for-like sales grow by 2.4% as a result of continued strong food demand.

The Pitcher & Piano and Tavern Table operator said the sales trend improved in the early part of 2011 following growth of 3% in the past seven weeks.

The Wolverhampton-based company added that underlying profit trends at its tenanted and leased pubs division continued to improve, with like-for-like profits up 0.1% against the 4% decline seen in the 2010 financial year.

Marston’s said the turnaround reflected the success of new agreements which give tenant landlords more incentives to grow their business.

Chief executive Ralph Findlay described the company’s trading performance in the first half of its financial year as “encouraging”.

The company has an estate of around 2,150 pubs in England and Wales, including around 500 outlets in the managed pubs estate.

Marston’s has benefited from its F-Plan strategy, which has seen it focus on “food, families, females and forty/fifty somethings”. It is also capitalising on longer term trends towards more eating out, as food sales now account for around 40% of its revenues, up from 27% in 2004.