The landscape of British pubs and beer has undoubtedly seen a dramatic change. In response to an increase in pub closures over recent years, pubs have found innovative ways to ensure the market remains current and attractive to consumers.
Great pub food is just one of the ways in which pubs are appealing to customers. Offering food has become increasingly important as a driver to attract more customers, with research demonstrating that consumers are increasingly expecting a wider range of food choices. Research has demonstrated that increasingly consumers are merging social occasions, with pubs more frequently now used for both food and drink-led events.
Demands for more unusual pub foods are on the rise too. Whilst traditional pub food would include light lunches or Sunday roasts, today consumers expect to see more variety of foods, with research demonstrating that an increasing number of consumers look for street food pop ups in pubs, along with a wider range of international cuisines.
Pubs have also begun to invest in the coffee industry. Today, pubs throughout the UK are recognising the value of the coffee industry to drive profits even during traditionally quieter times. Many pubs have begun investing in good quality coffee to appeal to new demographics of consumers. Some pubs and breweries, such as Shepherd Neame, have invested in creating their own, unique coffee blends and companies.
Other changes in consumer habits have also contributed to a change in the ways pubs operate today. Demand for a wider variety of drinks has led to pubs offering a much wider variety of beers and other drinks available. Whilst the number of pubs in the UK has decreased in recent years, the number of breweries has seen a sharp rise, in part due to the demand for a wider variety of more local beers. In 2016 alone, the number of new breweries launched in the UK amounted to more than 300. In the UK there are now over 2,250 breweries.
In recent years, craft beers have become a vital part of the pub sector, with many calling recent years of the beer industry a ‘revolution’. Consumers, who are increasingly attracted to local, natural and unusual beers, searching for beers of different origins, styles, ABVs and tastes, have continued to drive up the sale of craft beers. Whilst there has been a significant rise in the number of breweries and microbreweries to cater to this craft beer trend, long-standing brewers have also begun to adjust, with many large-scale breweries undergoing rebranding to create new and unusual beers to appeal to the new market.
Changes in consumer habits can also be attributed to a drive towards healthier living. Consumers often demand healthier beer options. As a result, low and non-alcoholic beers are increasingly available on the UK market, along with gluten free options.
This change in consumer habit and interest in craft beer has also led to many pubs taking up the opportunity to offer food and beer pairings. As food has become an important part of the modern pub, many pubs have begun to acknowledge the opportunity to offer great beer alongside food. In the past, wine and food were often paired, however, many establishments are acknowledging that all beer can complement foods, and offering a wide range of beers to interact with food dishes is an increasingly vital element of the pub industry.
So why all this change in consumer habit? A number of different reasons are attributed to the change in the beer and pub sector. Significantly, there has been a shift in attitude towards alcohol consumption. In the period of 2004-2016 alone, alcohol consumption fell by 17%. These statistics undoubtedly have influenced the growing trend of low-alcoholic products.
Many attribute the smoking ban to causing the biggest shift in pub culture. Not only is it argued that the ban resulted in a significant fall in the number of overall British pubs, but the ban also resulted in a shift in the type of pub customer. Today, the pub sector has shifted, with research suggesting that pubs have shifted towards more family-friendly atmospheres which appeal to families.
In addition, the price of a pint in a pub is significantly higher than alcohol in supermarkets. In particular, the recession hit the pub sector disproportionately hard. As a result, pubs have had to adjust to ensure that they offer an experience which consumers could not get at home, hence the transition towards more food-led establishments, and the growing trend to create a space which is not just for drinking alcohol, but for a variety of occasions for a variety of consumers.