Responding to a growing demand for locally brewed ale, the Co-operative Group has introduced 56 ale varieties across its 2,800 stores. It is working with 14 new breweries and microbreweries to provide customers a wider range of locally sourced ale.
This nationwide initiative has already helped boost sales by 19% since the official launch on 18 May. The Group is also offering a mix and match off of three bottles for £5.
The Group’s real ale buyer, Joe Turner, explained why the retailer had chosen to focus on locally-sourced ale: “The popularity of local breweries is very impressive and, as a convenience retailer at the heart of the community, this is an important step in our commitment to offering more quality, locally sourced ales in our stores. Local breweries are now playing a part in The Co-operative’s move to change the way it sells real ale by offering specially selected beers from breweries near to its local stores.”
The ale market is worth an estimated £490m last year and sales are expected to reach £1bn by 2020.
“It’s exciting to collaborate with these local breweries, and we hope our customers really enjoy the new selection of ales that we now have on offer – we are very pleased to add their beers to the increasing range of locally produced ales now available in our stores,” added Mr Turner.
Research conducted in April by the Group showed that one in three (31%) of the UK population now drinks beer, with six bottles of ales consumed every second. Furthermore, almost three million women say they are now more likely to choose real ale than ever before while 20% of young people in Britain (18-24 year olds) say they’ve moved away from lager towards real ale. The survey also revealed that 71% of ale drinkers believed it was important to find locally brewed varieties.
Conwy Brewery is one of the 14 new breweries that have signed contracts with the Group. The Welsh brewery based in Llysfaen will supply Co-operative Food stores with 40,000 pints of ale. The Brewery’s beers including Clogwyn Gold, Rampart – a full bodied brown beer, and the best-selling Welsh Pride.
Head Brewer at Conwy Brewery, Gwyne Thomas, said: “It is fantastic news, this is our first listing of this scale with a convenience retailer and it opens up new markets for us. We are delighted that the Co-operative shares our passion for local real ales and is now stocking three of our ales including our best-selling Welsh Pride. We pride ourselves on taste and quality and we know this is an approach shared by the Co-operative.”
Other breweries involved in the initiative include Conwy Brewery (Wales); Batemans’ (Lincolnshire); Saltaire Brewery (Bradford); Bath Ales; Double Maxim Beer Company (Tyne and Wear); Exmoor Ales and, William Bros. Brewing Co. (Alloa). The Group is also in talks with co-op brewery.
Managing director of the Exmoor Brewery, Jonathan Price, said: “We are delighted The Co-operative shares our passion for local real ales and is now stocking our best-selling ale in communities close to the source of where the beer is brewed. We pride ourselves on taste and quality and we know this is an approach shared by The Co-operative.”
Nathan Wride, national account manager at Batemans also confirmed an increase in sales due to their collaboration with the Group. “It is tremendous news, we have seen an overnight uplift in volumes,” he said.
The retailer’s move to change the way it sells real ale is part of its strategic objective to become customers’ preferred convenience food retailer.
“Our aim is to make Co-op Food the number one convenience retailer in the UK, and it is my own personal aim to make the Co-op the consumers’ first choice destination when it comes to real ales,” said Mr Turner. “A growing number of people are turning to shopping little and often with almost one in three adults no longer doing the traditional big shop each week. Shoppers are moving away from larger supermarkets to shop more frequently in their local, community convenience store.”
He added: “We are witnessing a major shift in shopping habits and the Co-op has some important advantages, such as our presence in the heart of communities. The Co-operative has responded to this change, investing to transform and grow our convenience business, lowering the price of everyday essentials, and exciting programmes like this move to offer quality, locally sourced real ales from breweries located near to our stores.”