The Frozen North

Frederic Robinsons, the Cheshire-based family brewers, have announced a price-freeze on the majority of the beers supplied to its 360-strong tenanted estate.  All of their cask beers and the majority of the lagers they sell will not go up in price for their tied estate in 2012, other than via duty increases.

In testing times this may appear to be a daring move by Robinsons, however, the move can be justified in two ways according to Director William Robinson.  “First and foremost – it’s tough out there.  We have just completed a full estates review and what we are continually hearing is how hard things are for our tenants.  We don’t want people to leave us and equally we want to be an attractive place for the best operators in the industry.  Secondly, our new £5m brew house means that we are 70% more energy efficient and so we are able to pass some of this on to our extended family.”

This is despite increases felt across the brewing sector to energy, malt and hop prices forcing some brand owners to increase prices by as much as 8%.

But the good news didn’t stop there as Director of Marketing, David Bremner pointed out, “we’ve had much success with eight new lager brands towards the end of 2011 and whilst they are still in their infancy we took this opportunity to make them even more attractive to our licensees.  This has caused a noticeable shift towards beers like Carlsberg, San Miguel, Amstel and Becks Vier which are amongst those we have chosen to freeze.”

It would appear that this strategy is paying dividends too with vacancies for pubs at a 3-year low and like for like lager and cask ale sales in growth at the start of 2012.

Robinsons licensees are amongst the tens of thousands being hit by rising fixed costs whilst sales are under pressure.  “We’re doing our bit”, concluded William, “it would be nice to see a ray of sunshine that the government were prepared to join in and bring life back to our struggling industry.”  Robinsons are amongst many family brewers throughout Britain who have contributed a total of £240K towards a £379K fighting fund to help persuade the government that a cut in VAT to 5% for the hospitality sector would generate up to 320,000 new jobs.

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