The beer market experienced unparalleled growth in 2020 as consumers drank at home due to the lockdowns.

The pandemic also stimulated the trend towards premiumisation.

During 2020, the greatest absolute value growth in the overall beer category came from premium lager and world beer.

Daria Kuznetsova, Commercial Controller of Off-Trade Wholesale at Budweiser Brewing Group, tells Wholesale Manager what trends are driving the market and how wholesalers can merchandise beer in depot.

What is your background? How long have you been at Budweiser Brewing Group and where did you work before that?

I was born in Russia, and educated in the Netherlands, where I studied for a Bachelor of Business Administration at Stenden University. Before starting my new role, I was in Dubai for the previous 12 years, working in the drinks industry with some of the world’s leading alcohol brands. I joined Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I in June, following two years as Sales Manager, UAE, Oman & Bahrain at AB InBev where, among other projects, I launched Goose Island & Corona draught in the UAE Market.

Tell us about your role.

The Commercial Controller of Off-Trade Wholesale role is all about supporting Budweiser Brewing Group’s partners in the channel. It’s a really exciting time to be taking on this role, as there are lots of great opportunities for our Off-Trade right now, like catering for casual social gatherings at home even as lockdown lifts. My focus will be delivering growth through digital transformation and premiumisation to help our customers to take advantage of the opportunities in a post-pandemic landscape.

What is a typical day for you?

Each day is different to the last! Recently my day has involved getting to know our customers and their specific needs.

What is the value of the UK beer market?

The beer market saw unprecedented growth last year as drinking occasions moved into the home. So far this year beer value sales have risen by 8.3% YOY across the total Off-Trade compared with the same period in 2020.1 Comparing with 2019, beer category sales have grown by 36% YOY, selling an additional £573.3m worth of beer across the same period.2 We’re forecasting that 2021 will be another huge year for beer, with a summer of sport and helping the total category to grow by double digits.3

What trends are driving the market?

The pandemic has accelerated the trend for premiumisation. Last year, premium lager and world beer contributed the most absolute value growth to the overall beer category.4

Wholesalers can help stores capitalise on this by stocking both segments in their depots, offering a strong range of premium brands, such as Stella Artois, Budweiser and Corona.

We’re also seeing rising consumer demand for seltzers, which have a proven track record of sales growth during the summer months. Last year there was a 36% sales uplift in July and August.5 We’re expecting this summer to drive growth in the category once again as Brits seek out light, ready-to-drink options for spontaneous gatherings. We recently launched Bud Light Seltzer which will help our customers meet these changing consumer preferences.

How has business been for Budweiser Brewing Group during Covid-19?

Like the rest of the industry, we’ve had to adapt to meet the demands of the pandemic. Our top priority has been the health and safety of our people. We have also shifted our production to support the retail trade and have given back in the communities where we operate. For example, we produced and distributed more than 10,000 litres of hand sanitiser and disinfectant for frontline workers in care homes, police and fire services, and other vital services near our brewery communities.

The beer industry is hugely valuable to the UK economy, employing 900,000 people. Earlier this year, we announced that we were investing £115m in our two major UK breweries, which we believe will be a catalyst for the recovery post-Covid.

How have Bud Light Boxheads been selling so far?

They have proved really popular with retailers since launch last month. Boxheads first appeared in a World Cup qualifier match between San Marino and Poland in March, causing a buzz on social media, and the Guardian even turned them into an editorial cartoon!

How much of a sales uplift do you anticipate from the Euros?

We’re predicting that 413 million pints of beer will have been sold in June in the UK Off-Trade driven by sporting events.6 Televised sport is a huge driver for at-home beer consumption – 2018’s FIFA World Cup, the last big tournament on our screens, drove the biggest monthly sales in category history.7 Given this is the first time we’ve been able to watch international sport for a long time, we expect this summer’s football to be a big sales driver.

55% of shoppers are more likely to opt for ‘official sponsor’ brands over their usual beer choices.8 With Bud Light being an official sponsor of the England Men’s Football team, this presents a unique growth opportunity for wholesalers stocking the brand.

What advice do you have for wholesalers on merchandising beer in depot?

There’s a growing opportunity around beer and food for wholesalers and their customers; three out of five beers are now consumed with meals.9 Wholesalers can suggest customers capitalise on this by offering pairings, such as beer and pizza meal deals which proved popular last year, and merchandise these components together in depot.

Beers always play an important role in BBQ season – 60.3m Off-Trade packaged beers were served at BBQs and picnics across the UK in 2019.10 Wholesalers can tap into this trend by merchandising beer alongside its BBQ staples to encourage customers to do the same in-store.

How do you work with wholesalers to improve sales?

We introduced a new way of working with our wholesale customers at the beginning of last year – focusing on simplifying our pricing and promotions structure and introducing greater use of digital technologies. Despite a year of uncertainty and upheaval that none of us had anticipated, these new processes have already proven really effective for our customers. We are always speaking with retailers to understand their challenges.

Do you have any NPD coming up?

We’re always looking at ways to diversify our portfolio to help customers meet changing shopper needs – Bud Light Seltzer was launched to respond directly to the rising demand for fizzy alcoholic drinks. We also expanded our price-marked packs range this year across our Corona, Budweiser, and Stella Artois brands to cater to shopper preference for priced packs.

 

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