What does the future hold for the premium bottled ale market?

Brewers, retailers and beer buyers talk to OLN about the challenges and opportunities for the sector

Ian Targett, buying manager for ale & cider, Tesco: "PBA sales are thriving. They continue to drive the otherwise relatively flat ale market - the fact that we are giving focus to multipacks and canned premium ales has helped to facilitate this. There is more evidence of cross-shopping, and we are doing more cross-promoting."

Colin Cordy, managing director, St Peter's Brewery: "I think that pricing is an issue, with too many deep-cut price offers in the major supermarkets on PBAs. This could lead to a reduction in the number of SKUs stocked, as many of the smaller breweries who sell bottles are struggling to meet the prices demanded by supermarkets."

Gareth Jones, Beer Essentials, Horsham: "People are coming in looking for unusual things, stuff you don't see in the supermarkets or the multiples, and they are quite happy to pay over £2. I think if the quality is there then they don't have a problem with it at all."

Rupert Thompson, chief executive, Refresh UK: "PBAs are now an important business in their own right, but they are also very important in terms of improving the overall image of beer - far more than their actual volume would suggest. I think there is lots more growth opportunity, providing retailers and brewers manage the sector with care and continue to offer innovation and sensible promotional offers."

Lee Williams, brands marketing manager, Thwaites: "Like it or not, beer still has an image problem, which is being addressed through new packaging and presentation in glass - but this is a long-term issue. The opportunity today, as we see it, is to appeal to the lapsed male beer drinker, by presenting our PBAs such as Thwaites Double Century in the best packaging possible, be that clear or brown glass."

Alan Dunn, Open All Hours, Keswick: "We've given a dedicated area of the shop to Cumbrian ales - they are moving for us because they are often what people want to take home with them. There are 19 microbreweries in Cumbria, and there have been nine new bottled beers just from Cumbria this year."

Steve Curzon, marketing director, Adnams: "Consumers are going to pay more and more attention to the carbon footprint of the product they want to consume. The issue is in its infancy, is being picked up, and without doubt is going to become more and more widespread. We've grasped the nettle and redesigned all our bottles for Adnams, which is now packaged in the lightest weight bottle in its class on the fixture."

Steve McAllister, UK take-home director, InBev UK: "People want to know more about the taste, history and heritage of brands so it is also useful to feature information and tasting notes to help shoppers make their choice. This will stimulate interest in the sector and encourage more people to purchase brands they don't know that well."

Chris Lewis, marketing director, Wells & Young's: "PBAs will continue to be driven by the ales that people can't necessarily get in pubs. The off-trade gives consumers far more choice and we are working with customers to offer our consumers a much wider range of ale in response to this."