Having considered whether, er, weather and/or marketing budgets might have prompted the sudden lager boom in the UK from about 1969, we’re now going to take a look at the rise of the package tour as a possible explanation.
Contemporary commentators frequently cited foreign holidays as one cause of the sudden increase in popularity of both lager and wine in the 1970s, and it certainly sounds plausible, not least because, in 1970, the UK government removed restrictions on pricing which had been holding back package tour operators from offering really cheap deals. Could that be our ‘tipping point’? (Thanks for reminding us of that nice bit of jargon, Mark!)
After much hunting, we managed to find a handful of data points for holidays abroad taken by British people between 1951 and 1981 (in ‘millions’, as in 7 million overseas holidays were taken in 1976) and produced this graph.
Does that look like there’s a cause-and-effect relationship to you? It doesn’t to us.
Admittedly, with only figures for 1951, 1961, 1966, 1976 and 1981 to play with, we might be missing a huge peak around 1970, and if you happen to know where we can find those numbers, please do point us in the right direction.
Next, we’re going to map supply of lager in the UK (capacity of new lager production facilities coming on line?) against share of market. The suspicion grows that lager has an intrinsic appeal (cold, light, refreshing) and that all the boom required was for pent-up demand to be met, rather than any magic change in attitudes.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics’ Social Trends 9, 1979, via Britain Since 1945: A Political History by David Childs; and Social Trends 41, 2011.
UPDATE: here’s another graph (sorry, Egbert) which shows the percentage of the UK population between the ages of 18-24 based on census data from 1951, 1961, 1971 and 1981. The post-war baby boom saw a sudden leap in the young population on a similar course to lager consumption a few years later, which might suggest there’s something in Martyn Cornell’s demographic theory: lager was a ‘young drink’, and there were suddenly lots more young people.