Young’s acquires City Pub Co for £162 million

Young’s and City Pubs have agreed to a recommended cash and share acquisition, with Young’s acquiring City Pubs at a valuation of £162m. City Pubs, led by Clive Watson, operates a portfolio of 50 premium pubs and bedrooms.

Upon completion, Young’s will expand its managed trading estate to 279 pubs, including a 25% increase in bedrooms to a total of 1,065. Watson acknowledges City Pubs’ achievements over the past 12 years, highlighting its resilience during the pandemic.

Watson explains that the City Pubs board, considering economic uncertainties and growth plans, initially rejected approaches but found Young’s offer to be in the best interests of shareholders, providing 75% equity realization in cash at a premium.

Simon Dodd, CEO of Young’s, expresses excitement about the acquisition, emphasizing the alignment of strategies and cultures between the two companies and the compelling opportunity it represents for stakeholders.

Weekly Newsletter from PROOF Insight

This week: PROOF – Wine Premiumisation; Real living wage rise; Bumper English wine harvest

Research news

Pub profits boosted by premiumisation strategies

This week, Fuller’s Chief Executive stated that its pubs are faring well despite the cost-of-living crisis as they attract more affluent customers. Despite rising inflation, he revealed that the pub group is seeing premiumisation across the estate, with their most premium products seeing the fastest growth. This trend is reflective of consumers wanting to enjoy good quality drinks on the occasions they choose to go out.

When it comes to wine, recent research from PROOF Insight highlighted the importance of including premium wines on the list. As the category experiences falling demand across the on-trade, with current volumes sitting at 74% of what they were four years ago, premium wines can provide that necessary boost in profits. Given that wine drinkers are typically more affluent and 77% of them are inclined to treat themselves to an expensive wine now and then, they are prepared to spend more for quality.

One particular pub group illustrated this; it added premium wines to a select number of sites and subsequently saw the volume mix shift towards the more premium end. As a result, these sites generated higher profits than the other sites.

While having a value offering is important to help consumers manage their costs, it is equally important to have premium products for those consumers looking to treat themselves particularly when it comes to wine drinkers.

Find out about wine premiumisation

Sources: PROOF Insight, The Morning Advertiser, PROOF Insight Consumer Research October 2023

Industry news

Almost half a million workers receive a 10% pay rise

Workers on the Real Living Wage have received a 10% pay rise today. About 14,000 firms are signed up to the voluntary scheme, with a textiles manufacturer stating it had driven a 60% reduction in staff turnover. The scheme may be financially unviable for some hospitality firms, with Fuller’s boss Simon Emeny warning that high business rates could lead to more pub closures. To date, the pub sector has been better protected from closures, contracting -2.0% in the year to September, versus -3.6% for total licensed premises.

Sources: BBC News, Morning Advertiser, OUTLET 12 months to June 2023

Bumper harvest for English wine following strong growing conditions

For English wine, the growing season in 2022 was warm, allowing vines to maintain strong health following the winter. The flowering period also saw good weather, producing a large yield of fruit. The second half of summer saw cooler weather, slowing the ripening process and allowing complex flavours and aromas to develop. These conditions, alongside additional vine planting across their estate, has allowed Gusbourne to record their largest ever crop, with similar announcements from Ridgeview and Nyetimber.


Strange brews & news

All in good spirits, UK’s paranormal pubs!

UK’s pubs have seen their share of spooky goings on. Take The Red Lion Public House in Avebury, Wiltshire where there have been reports of a ghostly carriage, drawn by phantom horses in the inn’s courtyard. Then there is The Black Bear Inn in Tewksbury, Gloucestershire, home to an apparition of a headless man wearing an army uniform and dragging a chain through the corridors. Fancy a paranormal pint? A quick search will reveal your local haunt.

Sources:,, Historic England: Licence to Chill: 10 of England’s most haunted pubs

Investments, acquisition & openings

  • AG Barr acquires soft drinks brand Rio for £12.3 million
  • Fenwick has opened a fourth site under its Fuego tapas concept in Kingston, South-West London
  • The Real Greek will open sites in Braintree and Sheffield
  • Red Oak Taverns will purchase 17 leased pubs from St Austell Brewery in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset
  • Boca a Boca, the Ukrainian-born Spanish concept, will open a site in London’s Fitzrovia
  • Azzurri Group will open an ASK Italian site in Merry Hill shopping centre, Dudley
  • Chi, the Asian street food concept, has opened a new site in Derby
  • A luxury Chinese restaurant and karaoke venue will open at the Merrion Centre in Leeds next week
  • Caravan, the restaurant, bar and coffee concept, will open a new site in London’s Covent Garden
  • Burnt Faith, the UK’s first brandy distillery, has opened the Brandy House Bar in London
  • Sommellier Honey Spencer and partner Charlie Sims will open Sune, a neighbourhood restaurant on Broadway market in November
  • Amber Beverage Group has announced an investment of $37m to build a new Walsh Whiskey distillery

Sources: Propel, The Times

Product launches & campaigns

  • Soho Street Cocktails and Prezzo have released two ready-to-pour cocktails in their restaurants: Spiced Apple and Pear Martini and Morello Cherry Sour
  • Bud Light will return as the official beer sponsor for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship)
  • Seedlip has partnered with actor Rege-Jean Page on their new campaign encouraging consumers to “choose different”
  • The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has released a 40-year old whisky to celebrate their 40th anniversary
  • 1800 Tequila has partnered with Mike Skinner, from the band The Streets, on a limited edition bottling designed to represent their new single
  • Mossburn Distillers has released a 12-year-old blended malt aged in former Bourbon casks
  • Bladnoch distillery has released a selection of peated whiskies
  • Laphroaig has released Elements 1.0, a new whisky made using Islay malt
  • Floyd Mayweather Jr, the former champion boxer, has released a Canadian whisky called “The Good Money Whisky”
  • BrewDog has applied for a trademark covering brandy, suggesting a potential move into the category

Sources: Spirits Business, Drinks Industry

To keep up-to-date on the latest drinks industry research and news, follow PROOF Insight on LinkedIn.

Weekly Newsletter from PROOF Insight

This week: PROOF – Women in Wine Survey; Climate change & beer production; Modernising recruitment

Research news

Sexism, gender bias, harassment and underrepresentation in leadership: the top issues facing women in wine

Research by Proof Insight – the drinks and hospitality insights agency, and Curious Vines – the community that connects women in wine, highlights the challenges facing women working in the UK wine industry. Sexism, gender bias, harassment and underrepresentation in leadership were found to be the top issues that women want addressed, based on responses from over 700 women.

More than three-quarters (78%) of women feel that sexism/gender bias is an issue in the UK wine industry, and the same proportion (76%) that there is an issue of women being underrepresented in leadership roles. Over 1 in 3 women in wine have faced harassment whilst working, including 1 in 2 18-34-year-olds. Hospitality and sales roles were the more affected; 3 in 4 women in sommelier/ hospitality roles say they have been affected by sexism/gender bias and 62% have faced harassment. 45% in sales face discriminatory pay and conditions.

There is a risk of these issues draining talent: 44% of women have considered leaving the wine industry because of challenges faced, showing how inaction would be to the industry’s detriment. It is hoped the research can now be used to “kickstart conversations for real action to create a new world in wine, where we protect, retain and uplift female resource”, as commented by Queena Wong, Founder of Curious Vines.

The results were presented in-person to industry bodies including WSTA, Drinks Trust, WSET, IMW, UK Sommelier Academy and WineGB. For a copy of the webinar recording, please contact PROOF: [email protected]

Sources: PROOF Insight & Curious Vines, Women in Wine report

Industry news

Research paper suggests climate change is putting beer production under threat

A study focusing on the historic hop-growing areas in Germany, Czech Republic and Slovenia, warned that European hops will become increasingly difficult to grow unless action is taken. A decrease in hops yields and a drop in alpha acid levels, which adds bitterness compound, will make the brewing process more expensive. However, Global Technical Director of Charles Faram hop suppliers, suggests there is an opportunity to grow more hops in England which will have the ideal climate and will provide a good alternative.

Sources:, The Drinks Business

Modernising recruitment process could help with hospitality staff shortages

The number of vacancies in the three months to September 2023 is 36% above those in the three months to March 2020. Buzzworks shed light on their recruitment problem, stating their current annual staff turnover is 45% while their goal is 25%. Buzzworks’ Managing Director suggests it is worth adopting faster, tech-driven methods inspired by other industries rather than using traditional job applications and CVs. He cited their latest successful £30,000 recruitment campaign on Tiktok which received a flood of applications and filled all vacancies.

Sources: ONS, The Caterer, Propel

Strange brews & news

A pint or a coffee? Why not both?

BrewDog has launched a coffee stout in collaboration with Grind, the sustainable coffee company. The release comes after Grind opened a café in Brewdog’s bar in Waterloo, London last year. Craft beer has followed cocktails in exploring coffee flavours, particularly when it comes to dark beers. From a consumer perspective, the cocktail market has become saturated with coffee flavours – only 10% of cocktail drinkers want to see more bitter (including coffee) flavours in cocktails going forwards.

Sources: Retail Times, PROOF Intelligence – The Future of Cocktails

Investments, acquisition & openings

  • JD Wetherspoon has put its sites in Republic of Ireland outside of Dublin up for sale
  • Elegant Hotel Collection has launched 25 luxury hotels with plans to reach 50 globally by summer 2024
  • Boutique bowling venue operator, Lane7 is to open its largest UK venue in Birmingham
  • 150 cover restaurant to open in Milton Keynes by Dipna Anand, offering Punjabi and South Indian cuisine
  • Ketel One Vodka owner, Nolet Group, has acquired remainder of Dutch distiller Lucas Bols

Sources: Drinks Business, Restaurant, Langton Capital

Product launches & campaigns

  • Pernod Ricard and The Coca-Cola Company are collaborating to launch Absolut Vodka & Sprite RTD
  • Molson Coors announce plans to launch Happy Thursday, a line of spiked RTD with 4.4% abv, targeting 21-26-year-olds
  • The London Essence Co has added Aromatic Orange & Fig and Raspberry & Rose to its range, they are available in 500ml bottles in retailers
  • St Austell becomes the first pubco to join food waste app Olio
  • Redbreast whiskey has launched a limited edition bird feeder edition of its 12yo whiskey, in collaboration with BirdLife charity
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme has launched an Irish whisky named ‘Old Oak’ from Northern Ireland

Sources: BeverageDaily, Drinks Business

To keep up-to-date on the latest drinks industry research and news, follow PROOF Insight on LinkedIn.

Weekly Newsletter from PROOF Insight

This week: Train Strikes – Christmas 2023; Restaurant Promotions; Alcohol-Free Definition

Research news

Rail strikes threaten Christmas trade

Train driver’s union ASLEF recently revealed that it has not ruled out strike action over the upcoming Christmas period. In response, 37 major UK hospitality companies, including Big Table Group, D&D London and Mitchells & Butlers, all signed an open letter addressed to the transport secretary and rail unions urging them to redouble efforts to find a solution. Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, estimates that the strike action over the past 16 months has already cost on-trade operators £3.5bn in sales, with other sources suggesting these latest strikes in October will add a further cost of £400m. Strike action during the critical festive trading period, which generates almost 10% of annual drinks value, would harm many businesses and workers.

Last year, PROOF Insight found that strikes during the festive period impacted consumer behaviour, with 20% of on-trade consumers stating they altered their plans due to public transport strikes. Coupled with cold weather and the cost-of-living crisis, the strikes contributed to a 13.1% fall in volume of drink sales (December 2022 vs. December 2019). Moreover, drink sales data suggested that consumers avoided the high street – GB community pubs recovered 97% of December 2019 volumes while GB high street pubs only recovered 87% of volumes. This year, PROOF Insight’s Christmas 2023 report found that 58% of consumers plan to go out every week this December, but this could be dampened by strike disruptions.

To find out ways to maximise opportunities during the upcoming festive period, get in contact to receive PROOF Insight’s On-trade Christmas 2023 report.

Sources: Morning Advertiser, BBC, PROOF Insight Christmas 2022 Report, PROOF Insight Christmas 2023 Report

Click here for PROOF’s Christmas Report

Industry news

Restaurant promotions on the rise to enhance value propositions

Restaurant promotions have increased by 9% since the beginning of 2023 as operators enhance their value proposition. Promotions are trending towards those that offer extra product, such as free items for a certain amount spent or “buy one get one free” – now accounting for 13% of all promo. Price offers still account for 70%, although this has fallen from 80% at the beginning of the year. Special price offers on specific items account for 47%, whilst discounts across whole menus or categories of items account for 24% of promotional offers.

Sources: Propel, Meaningful Vision

UK to consult on changing “alcohol-free” definition

A public consultation in the UK is collecting opinions on raising the limit of the definition of “alcohol-free” from 0.05% ABV to 0.5%. The move would bring the UK in line with multiple other European countries as well as the USA and Australia. Supporters claim that increasing the threshold would allow for easier manufacturing, an increase in availability of no/low across retail and hospitality and, ultimately, encourage more people to moderate their alcohol intake. Some are against the idea, claiming that many consumers actively look for a beverage containing less than 0.05% ABV.

Sources: Morning Advertiser, Oxford Partnership

Strange brews & news

Considering Cakeage?

A recent survey has unveiled that most on-trade operators (77%) allow customers to bring and enjoy celebratory cakes on their premises and won’t impose a ‘cakeage’ fee. While only 8% of surveyed operators currently implement such a fee, 15% are contemplating the introduction of a flat or per-head charge to mitigate potential losses in dessert revenue caused by celebratory slices.

Sources: The Morning Advertiser

Investments, acquisition & openings

  • Hotel group Manorview acquire the Tarbet Hotel in Arrochar, adding to their growing portfolio
  • Guinness opened a brewery in Chicago also featuring a taproom, restaurant and bakery
  • Beam Suntory announce plans to launch Beam Suntory France in January 2024
  • Vietnamese restaurant, Pho, will open sites in Fulham Broadway and Glasgow
  • Various Eateries has opened another Noci site in Shoreditch, London
  • Jack Greenall will reopen the Walmer Castle in Notting Hill
  • Roxy Leisure has opened a Roxy Lanes venue on Cheltenham High Street

Sources: Dram Scotland, The Drinks Business, Drinks International, Propel

Product launches & campaigns

  • Captain Morgan unveiled their ‘Why You Whying?’ campaign to support the launch of their 0.0% rum, referencing the negative societal pressure of asking ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’
  • Thatchers Cider add Spiced Apple Cider as a seasonal variety to its Fusion Font draft range
  • Glenfiddich team up with luxury fashion label Ahluwalia to create specially designed jackets for bar staff
  • Heineken 0.0% launches in Japan, the 110th market worldwide for the no-alcohol beer
  • Never Say Die has debuted a rye whiskey
  • Redbreast has released a distillery-exclusive 10-year-old expression
  • Sly Dog has released a spiced rum flavoured with stone fruits
  • Tortilla has launched a 5pm-8pm evening menu with drinks ‘happy hour’ for members dining in, to capture more of the evening market
  • Loungers is to stock premium Italian lager brand Menabrea

Sources: Dram Scotland, The Drinks Business, The Morning Advertiser, Spirits Business, Restaurant Online

To keep up-to-date on the latest drinks industry research and news, follow PROOF Insight on LinkedIn.