Friday, 17 April 2020

Small brewers are wilting under the COVID lockdown

SIBA photo
Last week I was wondering how many UK breweries were still operating during the COVID crisis, and this week I found out: just one-third of them – and most of those are brewing less than usual.

It’s all connected to an 82% crash in sales reported by small independent breweries, according to a survey of 282 of them which was carried out by their trade body SIBA and released today.

SIBA says that despite beer production being part of the food supply chain, making brewers officially 'key workers', few independent breweries have access to supermarket sales and the like. So the fact that there’s no pubs, bars and restaurants open has resulting in 65% of them stopping production altogether. Another 31% have reduced production, and only 3% say it has stayed the same. Somewhat surprisingly, 1% on those asked – that’s two or three breweries! – reckon their production has actually gone up. 

SIBA adds that the vast majority of brewers – eight in 10 – do not believe the UK government is doing enough to support them, with 54% of the UK’s independent breweries saying they are unable to access any government support. Nearly a third (29%) are now considering redundancies.

“Pubs, bars and restaurants have been receiving help from the Government, but none of the same schemes apply to our small breweries who saw their sales fall off a cliff almost overnight. They urgently need a package of measures to keep them going otherwise many won’t be able to reopen,” said James Calder, SIBA’s Chief Executive.

He added, “While many [70%] have launched local delivery services or online shops to try to stay afloat, the increase in online sales is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall decrease their beer sales have seen.”

Even then, a quarter of small breweries simply don’t have the right licences to deliver direct to drinkers – SIBA is calling on the government to relax the relevant laws as part of a targeted package of support for breweries and the brewery supply chain. It says government help needs to match the level received by pubs, including the grants and exemptions from business rates, as well as allowing brewers to defer beer duty payments.

Have you taken advantage of a local brewery's online shop, and if so, how was it? 

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