Tetley's is still ale and hearty

BRITISH drinkers may be turning their backs on cask ale in favour of chilled, fizzy lager, but one Yorkshire bitter is bucking the trend.

Tetley's, which has been brewed in Yorkshire since 1822, has managed to maintain volumes in the shrinking ale market as drinkers switch allegiance to colder, lighter beers.

As the summers get hotter and the younger generation favour ice-cold bottled beers over the traditional pint, most English bitters have suffered, but Tetley's has held on to its position through hefty spending on advertising and an expansion of the core Tetley's brand.

Tetley's claims to be the only top four ale brand that has grown in volume in the last year, with Tetley's up by 4 per cent, while John Smith's is down 3 per cent, Worthingtons is down 1 per cent and Boddingtons down 16 per cent.

Tetley's advertising hit a bad spot during the 80s when its TV ads dwelled on the past too much, with scenes of Yorkshire pubs and men in flat caps swigging pints with a Jack Russell at their feet.

But the brand has seen a renaissance with its 'Smoothly Does It' advertising campaign, featuring a Tetley's drinker who smoothly manages to avoid life's hazards.

This includes bending down to tie his shoe laces at a wedding as the bride throws her bouquet.

He has already asked his girlfriend to hold his pint as he ties them.

Over 15m a year is spent on promoting Tetley's, ranging from TV advertising to rugby sponsorship.

The traditional cask ale brand has also been extended into several variations, including Tetley's Extra Cold, Tetley's Smoothflow, which is smoother and creamier than traditional ales, and the upmarket Tetley's Imperial Cask.

Tetley's parent company Danish brewer Carlsberg said yesterday that Tetley's had managed to maintain volumes during the six months to June 30.

During the period Carlsberg lager also performed well in the UK, with sales up 5 per cent despite tough comparisons with last year when the football World Cup heralded a nationwide lager binge.

The performance of Tetley's and Carlsberg in the UK was one of the bright stars at Danish brewer Carlsberg, which saw a sizeable decrease in profits in the first six months of the year.

Carlsberg said that drinkers were reluctant to spend in uncertain times and the company's core markets in Western Europe saw profits tumble 24 per cent to 71m.

But there was hope for the future as Carlsberg said that the conclusion of the Iraq war and the reduced fear of Sars, especially in Asia, had seen increased consumer confidence and improved sales in June and July.

A decline in operating profit at Carlsberg-Tetley's, the UK's fourth largest brewer, was mainly due to higher costs for marketing, restructuring and pensions.

Lager has become one of Britain's favourite tipples and is being drunk in bigger quantities than ever before.

The market for standard lager, usually less than 5 per cent alcohol by volume (abv), is worth 5.3bn a year while the premium end, usually 5 per cent abv and over, is worth 3.9bn a year.

Carlsberg was originally exported to the UK in the 1860s, but football has become the brand's main focus in the past decade.

Following the 1996 European championships held in England, which Carlsberg helped sponsor, sales of the lager grew by more than 70 per cent.

The company has sponsored England's football team ever since.