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CASTLE MALTING NEWS in partnership with www.e-malt.com Danish
19 May, 2020

Brewing news Ireland: Sales of alcohol outstrip increase in grocery purchases

Sales of alcohol in Ireland and the UK have outstripped the increase in grocery purchases sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Independent.ie reported on May 18.

That is in marked contrast to Spain, Italy and France, where sales of alcohol have dramatically failed to match the surge in purchases of foodstuffs.

However, while sales of take-home alcohol have soared by 40pc in Ireland since the lockdown was enforced in March, overall alcohol sales are estimated to be down by 30pc due to the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants.

In Belgium, supermarket sales of alcohol have only increased by 10pc.

One craft drinks producer, Daniel Emerson of Stonewell Cider, said that contrary to belief, not all drinks producers have enjoyed a sales boom because of the pandemic lockdown.

"Around 80pc of our business was through pubs and restaurants," he said.

"That market for us was literally wiped out almost two months ago. It was surreal - that is the only word for it."

The lockdown was a particularly cruel blow for the Cork cider firm, which was founded in 2010 by Mr Emerson and his wife Geraldine.

They had planned an ambitious series of events to mark their 10th anniversary, only to see the programme wrecked by the lockdown.

Further, the company had increased its stock in preparation both for their anniversary events and the potential impact of the virus.

"We just never anticipated a lockdown on this scale. It took out all of our major outlets. We were left sitting with a major amount of stock," he said.

Stonewell has survived thanks to off-licence sales and customer loyalty, particularly across its Munster heartland.

However, they do not have long-standing supply contracts with major supermarket multiples - a problem faced by many Irish craft beer and cider producers.

That meant they were effectively excluded from a key market that had soared since the pandemic lockdown was enforced in March.

Stonewell had enjoyed triple digit sales growth for many years - but faced the painful task of halving its workforce last month.

The loss of all festivals and sport events across Ireland this summer was a further major blow, as they represented a crucial market.

"What we need more than anything now from the Government is clarity - we need to know precisely what it plans over the coming months so that we can make our own plans," Mr Emerson said.

"Having low-interest loans available to help companies because of the pandemic is fine - but business people with their necks on the block, just like we have, really need to know what the Government plan is."

Nielsen and Drinks Ireland data revealed a total transformation in Ireland's alcohol market since the lockdown.

Drinks Ireland official Patricia Callan said the industry now faced a very challenging situation.

"The on-trade, that is all pubs, restaurants and hotels, usually account for 55pc of total alcohol sales and they are completely closed.

"Therefore, as expected, we have seen a rise in off-trade sales, but this increase in no way compensates for the loss in sales associated with the on-trade being closed, so overall we estimate that alcohol consumption in Ireland could be down by around 30pc."


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