British drinkers’ growing thirst for Italian lager Peroni has helped brewer SABMiller buck the trend of falling beer sales in the UK.
Pub groups have fallen on hard times as cash-strapped drinkers have flocked to cheap supermarket deals.
But the world’s second biggest brewer revealed sales of Peroni on tap increased by more than 10 per cent as pub goers showed no qualms about forking out ?5 or more for a pint.
Italian job: Profits for the six months to September rose 12 per cent to ?2.28billion
Other big sellers included Pilsner Urquell, which grew by double digits. And the firm more than doubled sales of Kozel, a Czech pilsner launched in 2010 and available exclusively on draught in the UK.
Gary Haigh, head of the brewer’s UK subsidiary Miller Brands, said sales of premium lagers had picked up as pubs – particularly in towns and cities – spruce up their image.
He said the brewer also had to contend with the miserable summer and the ‘hospitality week from hell’ as workers were urged by London’s mayor Boris Johnson to work from home during the first week of the Olympics.
He said: ‘It’s been the year to remember for all the wrong reasons for the industry – fortunately we managed to buck the trend.’
It was a different story over at Aim-listed brewer Young’s, however. The firm (up 19p at 712.5p) said it made the most of the UK’s ‘summer of celebration’ as promotions around the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games boosted trade. The group, which has 237 pubs across London and the south of England, said the summer’s events helped it overcome a rain-soaked first quarter, with half-year underlying profits rising 11.2 per cent to ?13.9million.
The robust results for SABMiller also came despite the rising cost of barley used to make beer and adverse currency swings. Profits for the six months to September rose 12 per cent to ?2.28billion, with sales up 11 per cent to ?17.5billion.
Further afield the London-based company enjoyed strong profit growth in emerging markets in Africa and Latin America.
But SAB didn’t have it all its own way, with a 5pc drop in profit growth in Europe. As the brewer reports in US dollars the weakening euro also tarnished its figures.
The firm, which spent ?7.4billion last year on Foster’s, said the Australian company ‘contributed significantly’ to first half growth.
It lifted its interim dividend by 12 per cent to 24 cents (15p) a share.