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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Bottled beers take Pole position
SABMiller's Tyskie beer
Polish beers are proving popular in the UK, especially London
UK demand for foreign bottled beer has helped brewer SABMiller serve up a 14% rise in annual profits.

The influx of Polish workers has been credited with pushing UK sales of its Tyskie and Lech brands to the equivalent of 17.6 million pints.

SABMiller - which also makes Peroni and Miller Lite - made pre-tax profits of 1.4bn in the year to 31 March.

It added it expected to continue to grow in future, despite losing a key licence to brew Amstel in South Africa.

Changing tastes

Beer analyst at Euromonitor, Abid Rahman, said that while immigration to the UK might be "the obvious answer" to soaring sales of the more exotic brands of alcohol, this was not the only reason.

"There has been a diversification in our tastes," Mr Rahman told the BBC.

"There has been a historical decline in ale and stout drinking, but the slack has been taken up by cider such as Magners and world beers.

"It's a lifestyle thing. It looks cool to drink exotic drinks. People are going to Eastern Europe on holiday and coming back and wanting to drink these things they have seen on holiday."

But he added that there had not been a large cultural change.

"Our figures show that the beer market only grew 1% last year and that was during a World cup year which is usually a good year," Mr Rahman said.

Popularity

Increasing availability of Polish beer in the UK through sales in off-licences and supermarkets, as well as Polish bars and restaurants also helped boost SABMiller earnings.

Other European drinks such as Czech beer Pilsner Urquell were also selling well, the brewer added.

The beer firm also owns Romanian brewery Ursus, whose beer may prove popular if large numbers of Romanian workers move to the UK now that their country has joined the European Union.

However, it is the popularity of the drinks in their home countries that is key to SABMiller, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

It said that 80% of its European profits came from within the Czech Republic, Poland and Russia.


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