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Jan 31, 2014 07:02 AM

German sales of beer hit 25-year low

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  1. As the article itself says, domestic sales are down by about two percent, which is almost the same as the decline in the US where the "craft beer" movement is claimed to be making record sales.

    Beer consumption around the world is declining and has done for the past few years. No one seems to know exactly why, but I expect that eventually, it will change and consumption will go back up. At least, I hope so.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ThomasvanDale

      In the US, mainstream beer companies have not performed as well in the last decade as their competitors, such as wine and spirits, in matters such as pricing and product innovation. Beer prices have increased much faster than spirits prices, for example. And spirits companies have come out with a torrent of new products. Granted, you and I might not care about a lot of them, but they appeal to younger people. How have the large brewers innovated in the mainstream, outside of new packaging or imagery of coldness?

      I believe a lot of young Germans prefer radler-like concoctions over beer. I have long theorized (correctly, I'm not sure) that young Europeans tend to ignore their birthright, in this case beer.

      1. re: Jim Dorsch

        I think it is very difficult to talk about the decline in beer consumption. Here in the Netherlands, tax on beer was increased on 1 January. That will have some effect, especially since the economy is not so good. They also raised the beer and wine drinking age to 18.

        Beer in Germany is very cheap (actually, so is much of the food as well) and, from my observation, does not particularly appeal to the very young (teen to 25). However, there are many young people who are the exception to that rule. Nevertheless, beer remains quite popular with the middle aged and older people.

        I doubt very much that radler has much influence on beer consumption. There is a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks, including juice drinks and yoghurt drinks, that young people are drinking. My daughter is 20 and at university and does not like alcohol, so when she goes out with friends, I'm sure (well, hopeful) they go somewhere there are other sorts of drinks available.

        There is some change in the beer scene going on here, but mostly it's small breweries starting up in countries which, historically, were never big beer consumers.

        1. re: ThomasvanDale

          I base my thoughts on radler-like drinks to a press trip I took about ten years ago. We saw a presentation at a northern pilsner brewery, during which they showed us a lot of drinks consisting of beer mixed with juices, energy drinks, etc. The market may not have developed along those lines as they predicted.

          1. re: Jim Dorsch

            Mixed beer drinks, in my experience are more popular in Belgium than Germany. They do exist in Germany, but are pretty rarely seen in pubs.

            If you ever go to Belgium, try the pub across the road from the Westmalle monastery, called Café Trappisten. They offer a mixed beer drink called a half and half - half Westmalle Dubbel and half Westmalle Tripel.

    2. I wonder if low carb has taken hold there?

      3 Replies
      1. re: MVNYC

        I think low-carb is old news in most countries. gluten-free, however, is booming, as I'm sure you know.

        1. re: Jim Dorsch

          Gluten free has the same effect on beer as it does on bread.

          I only eat meat and vegetables during the week and if I drink alcohol it's either wine or a scotch. Keeps the weight off but it has lessened the beer I buy so there is an effect.

          1. re: MVNYC

            Gluten-free beers (according to international standard) made from barley and treated with enzymes to remove most gluten taste pretty reasonable. These include Omission, for example.

            I drink very little these days, and it will stay that way until I've completed my fitness/weight-loss program. I am reasonably close to my goal, thankfully.

            The future of beer in this country is not going to depend on me, but on people in their 20s and 30s, who are in their prime (by volume) drinking years.

      2. I wonder how much hard cider has to do with it... I've got 25 gallons working right now!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Raffles

          In the US, hard cider is growing rapidly, but on a very small base.

          1. re: Jim Dorsch

            At my local beer bar, they sell a lot if cider. 90-95% to women.

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              Same thing in the UK. Up a third in the last 5 years. Used to have a bad rep due to the super strength "cider" and it being a favourite of underage drinkers. Not sure how much the growth is in industrial stuff like Magners and Strongbow, but there's a definite resurgence in local small producers. Big beer brands like Stella and Carling have entered the market with ciders. I think a lot of that is to target women as well as off setting a fall in beer sale.

          2. They must have heard us talking. Here's a story on US beer sales, published today.


            6 Replies
            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              From the report you cited: "What’s more, the drinking habits of young Americans have changed dramatically in recent years, studies show. Beer drinking among 18- to 29-year-olds fell from 71% in the years 1992 to 1994, to 41% from 2012 to 2013, according to a separate 2013 survey by Gallup; sales of liquor rose from 13% to 28%, and wine rose from 14% to 24% over the same period."

              The only statistic from the craft beer movement is 2700 breweries. That there are no other statistics is rather strange.

              Just as there are domestic factors in the US causing beer consumption to drop, there are other domestic factors in Germany causing the same result.

              The problem with the headline of this thread is that it combines both domestic consumption and foreign export. I would expect that foreign export for beer would be down almost every where because of economic factors.

              1. re: ThomasvanDale

                Yes, the headline is rather odd, although the subhead makes sense.

                I don't know how much data has been collected on craft consumption. Scan data are collected at many retailers, but that doesn't capture on-premise sales.

                Overall, large brewers can make more money, of course, by selling less beer if more of it is craft.

                I think I have some information on this in an industry letter I get. I will try to find that soon.

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  Isn't the headline "German sales of beer hit 25-year low" (it seems rather sensationalistic and not very accurate to me). But, where is the "subhead"? I don't see anything after the headline except the message.

                  For statistics, I'd rather see quantity than money. Obviously, the major advantage of industrial beer is it's low cost.

                  1. re: ThomasvanDale

                    I was referring to the report on US sales to which I linked above:

                    Is America facing a beer crisis?
                    Mainstream beer brands are losing market share to spirits and wine

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      You mean all of the young ones are learning that liquor is quicker? Gee, there are soooo many flavors of just vodka in te stores now, and flavored rum.... crazy kids' drinks...

                      1. re: Jim Dorsch

                        I'd also argue that a shift to "craft beer" often entails switching to stronger beers. I suspect if you normalized the beer by total ABV consumption and not just fluid consumption, it would not look as bad.

                        To put it another way, back in the day I'd put away a 6-pack of MGD on a weekend night, whereas now a bomber of Stone Enjoy By would accomplish the same thing (and maybe even more).