Increasing demand for real ale in both bottled and cask form helped Marston’s deliver a “solid” set of results according to its chief executive.
The Wolverhampton-based brewer and pub operator’s brewing division grew revenues by 4.1 per cent to £132.5 million and profits by 3 per cent to £17.4 million as Marston’s said its focus on premium and regional beers reflected strong consumer interest in this area.
On the pub side of its business Marston’s is undergoing a two-year overhaul of its pub estate as it looks to offload weaker, drink-led sites and focus investment on new-build outlets where the focus is on value-for-money family dining.
There underlying profits fell 3.6 per cent to £83 million, while the impact of pub disposals and other one-off charges contributed to a bottom-line loss of £59.2 million.
As well as an estate of around 1,700 pubs comprising managed, franchised and leased outlets, Marston’s brews Pedigree, Banks’s, Jennings, Wychwood, Ringwood and Brakspear.
Over the last five years, the company said volumes have grown by 30 per cent in premium bottled ale and by 9 per cent in premium cask ale.
About one in five premium bottled ales and one in six premium cask ales sold in the UK are now Marston’s brands, with. Hobgoblin its biggest seller.
The company said many beer drinkers had become “bored by conventional big beer brands” and that the market had fragmented with more interest in “provenance, choice and taste” resulting in growing demand for “premium beer”.
Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: “It was a very good year for our beer business. We are unique in the UK market in terms of having such a range of beers in our portfolio - we have got about 70 different beers.
“There is much more interest in premium beers and regional beers so there are good opportunities on the beer side.”
The company disposed of 388 pubs during the year, generating proceeds of £144 million, and it anticipates a further £70 million in proceeds in 2015.
Since 2009 the company has sold 388 pubs and the sale of around 200 next year is likely to herald the end of disposals.
Mr Findlay said: “Overall it has been very solid and we have made good progress. We are very much on track.
“In 2015 we will see 200 more pubs sold and after that we are broadly complete as far as disposals are concerned.”
Marstons is currently building 25 or more new pubs each year and that is something which is set to continue.
Each pub costs between £2 million and £2.5 million to build, turns over £1.5 million per year on average and employs 50 people.
Mr Findlay added: “It is where the focus of our growth plans are. We think there are significant opportunities across the UK for investing in those kind of pub restaurants offering value-for-money family dining.”