Higher stout consumption driven by female drinkers and low alcohol options | Alcohol

Stout, sometimes thought of as the drink of older men in pubs, is finding a diverse audience – and it’s not just Guinness that’s boosting sales.

The beer, part of the ale family and usually a very dark colour, is attracting a range of consumers, including young women, drawn in by new flavours and lower alcohol options.

The consumption of stout globally, by volume, increased by 11% between 2021 and 2022, according to drinks market analysts IWSR. In the UK the growth over that period was 23%, making it one of the largest stout volume markets globally alongside Nigeria, the US and Ireland.

Roisin Vulcheva, head of beer insights at IWSR, said: “A lot of growth in stout is coming from Europe, and momentum is especially being driven by an expanding consumer base. People also show interest in 0% varieties. Innovation is also being seen in the on-premise with stout served on draught.”

Waitrose said stout sales had increased by 29% compared with the same time last year. It also noted a higher split of women buying the beer: 61.3% of the volume was bought by women and 37.5% by men.

Tesco said stout had become so popular it was now the fastest-growing beer variety in the UK, with sales rising by 35% over the past year. New ranges are launching all the time. Brewdog’s stout, Black Heart, which was brought on to the market in January 2023, is now Tesco’s most popular after Guinness.

Experts say the trend is driven by good marketing of Guinness during the pandemic and the craft ale movement creating drinkers who want more choice. The introduction of lower-alcohol options has also drawn in more people.

Michael Brown, global whisky brand ambassador for Ian Macleod Distillers, said: “It’s a blend of younger generations embracing nostalgia combined with its exceptional flavour.

“Lower ABV also contributes to its popularity, reminiscent of the recent trend of the uptick of session IPAs.”

Tom Holmes, head of the independent brewery Vocation, agrees that stout has been “modernised by newer brands coming in”. He said there was good marketing done by leading products to make it seem less of an old-fashioned drink. “The Guinness 0% was such a good product and opened up stout to a new market,” he said.

He added: “Another thing is the fact that the craft beer category is 10-12 years old and lots of people who brought in at the start of that have seen their taste buds mature and are moving on to stout.

“We think there is something around the sweeter flavours of stout being introduced that are bringing more females in, as it does not have the same bitterness typically associated with hops so it’s more accessible.”

The head brewer at Black Sheep, Dan Scott Paul, said: “People are savvier now in terms of what they buy. The common drinker wants variety … that is down to the craft beer boom as it created a versatile drinker who craves choice.”

Lee Williams, a beer and cider category manager at LWC Drinks, the UK’s largest independent drinks wholesaler, said since Covid there had been a “massive increase in stout sales across the board”.

LWC Drinks’ distribution partnership with Conor McGregor’s stout brand, Forged Irish Stout, has brought more than 800 tap installations since October 2023 – a record for the company, according to Williams.

“This level of success is also a significant indication of where the stout market is currently at,” he said.

Williams puts the increased interest down to “celebrity endorsements and social media engagement”. He added: “Also, the desire for premium drinking experiences that simply cannot be replicated at home have become increasingly popular since Covid.”

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