As one of the larger companies buys a brewery and expands its estate, competitors start hunting for their next purchase to keep up. Our fear is that an increasing number of smaller breweries will be lost if this race continues and consumer choice will suffer as a result.
That’s an astute bit of market analysis. Marston’s seem to think they’ll make more money out of allowing the smaller breweries they buy to remain independent and local, rather than bringing production of their beers “into the mothership”, as Charles Wells and Greene King have done:
Ralph Findlay, Marston’s chief executive, said that while the wider ale market was declining, many niche brewers were still doing well. “There is good growth in brands with strong imagery and a strong presence in their locality,” he said.
This is a topic we’ve posted on before — the value to the “big boys” of having some smaller, more credible brands to hide behind — but it’s worrying to think that if the market changes, those smaller breweries could be snuffed out, or at least neutered, overnight.
Of course, the former owner of Ringwood can’t be blamed: he’s pocketed nearly Â£20m, which is what the Godfather would call an offer you can’t refuse.