London: Britain’s beer drinkers can serve as role models for the nation as it struggles to emerge from recession, according to a University of Nottingham study.
The country’s real ale fans represent the perfect example of how greater consumer awareness can revitalise a struggling industry, say economists.
Experts at Nottingham University Business School came up with the findings after examining the history of brewing in England.
They believe the industry’s rebirth in the wake of the Campaign for Real Ale’s founding in 1971 has implications for much of the UK economy.
Professor Peter Swann, the study’s author, said: “The fact is that the business world can learn an enormous amount from our beer buffs. The range of products and the number of centers of production in brewing in England declined dramatically between 1900 and 1970.
“As is widely accepted, that process began to reverse with the formation of CAMRA and its fight against bland, mass-produced beers. This has led us to the position we’re in now, with hundreds of small breweries spread all over the country and making thousands of different beers. In technical terms, this represents horizontal product differentiation and a reduction in the importance of the economies of scale,” he added.
“That’s basically a clever way of saying variety is the spice of life and that more discerning tastes can be good for the economy,” Professor Swann said.
At the start of the 20th century, breweries had shrunk alarmingly. Falling transport costs and technological advances gave big brewers a huge advantage over their rivals, forcing the latter out of business.
By 1970 the number of breweries in England was just 141 — compared to 1,324 in 1900 — with most located in a few cities and towns.
But CAMRA’s arrival and the group’s campaign for variety and quality raised consumer awareness and gradually ushered in a new era.
The result was the ongoing boom in microbreweries. By 2004 the number of breweries in England stood at 480.