St Austell Brewery has reported a 34% increase in revenue for 2022, versus 2021, with the group’s top line “in good health”.

Total revenue for the period was £209m – up 10% on pre-pandemic sales. 

Sales in the company’s managed pub estate have seen strong growth in 2023 so far. In the 23 weeks to 10 June 2023, like-for-like (lfl) sales were up 12%, with growth accelerating in recent weeks.

The last four weeks of trading to 10 June 2023 show lfl sales up 20%.

On an underlying basis the group generated earnings of £18.1m, up from £17.9m in 2021, with operating profit before one-off items up £100k to £11.4m.

St Austell’s pubs, inns and hotels divisions helped to lift revenues by 40% to £87.4m, with sales at its 41 managed sites up 41% and up 38% within its 133-strong tenanted estate.

Its beer and brands division achieved a revenue increased of 29%, to £121m.

Speaking to The Times, chief executive Kevin Georgel said that although revenues were back to pre-Covid levels, the bottom line was more of an issue.

“But I think that our performance even at the profit level compares well in the market,” he said, citing inflationary cost pressures and the key factor in profitability not being back to pre-pandemic levels as well as less visitors to the region.

Despite the challenges, Georgel said he was targeting growth in its pub division, both through investment in the existing estate and acquisitions, although he said expansion beyond the West Country was unlikely.

Commenting on the results, he said: “We entered 2022 in a strong position, having seen our profitability recover to near pre-pandemic levels and with a refreshed and clear strategic direction. However, external cost pressures beyond our control have required us to navigate numerous challenges. These include the extraordinary increases in energy costs, the highest rate of inflation for over 40 years, ongoing shortages in the labour market, and reduced visitor numbers in our region.

“Despite these challenges we had a record year for sales. In our beer business, the strength of our brands and continued improvements in efficiencies enabled us to also deliver record profits. We remain fully committed to building on our brewing reputation, as highlighted when we invested into North Cornwall’s Harbour Brewing Company in November.

“We remain committed to ensuring that a visit to one of our pubs, or drinking one of our beers, represents good value for our customers and does not become an occasional treat. Therefore, we have sought to mitigate the cost increases as best we can and improve the overall experience. However, the withdrawal of government support and the increase in taxation and regulation is adding to the already escalating cost of doing business which disincentivises investment.

“Having successfully completed our refinancing in March, we continue to have significant headroom in our funding. This will allow us to continue investing in our business and pursuing attractive acquisition opportunities. However, we urge the government to work harder to create conditions which incentivise investment and support businesses that are committed to growth.”

Will Michelmore, non-executive chairman, added: “I am pleased to report that the company achieved record sales in 2022 and grew its profitability. Despite the impacts of the pandemic beginning to abate at the start of the year, the economic challenges facing the business continued to intensify due to external factors - largely beyond our control - which significantly increased the cost of doing business.

“Against this backdrop, we still achieved sales growth, significantly improved the profitability of our beer business, and made good progress against our objective of releasing the full potential of our high-quality pub estate.

“Despite the current challenging environment, we are optimistic about our long-term prospects and remain confident that we have the leadership, talented teams, and focused strategy to ensure the company’s future success.”