Back in the 1970s more than 90% of all beer consumed in Britain was bought from the “on trade” – pubs and clubs.
According to the British Beer & Pub Association this ratio had fallen to 51% from pubs and 49% from supermarkets at the end of last year. “It will cross over in the near future,” said a spokesman, possibly as soon as this Christmas.
This would be a watershed moment for Britain’s beer industry, a culmination of long-standing change in consumers’ drinking habits as well as confirmation that the recession has caused people to stay at home more.
The figure came as a report from the GMB union highlighted how the high price of beer has caused the destruction of thousands of neighborhood pubs, in turn damaging many working class communities. It said that local pubs, many of which had survived the Blitz and the great depression of the 1930s, were now being destroyed by the recession.
Pub closures hit a record rate of 53 a week at the height of the recession. Last year, 26 a week closed their doors, leaving just 52,500 pubs in Britain, nearly half of the level at its peak before the World War II.
The Beer & Pub Association blamed competition from the supermarkets, which often sell beer as a “loss leader” to drive customers into their stores, and above-inflation increases to beer duty. The GMB blamed large pub companies putting up their prices because they were struggling with too many debts.