Germany: Breweries suffering from hangover

German breweries are suffering from a serious hangover: Since reunification in 1990 when statistics in Germany were set back to zero, there have never been lower beer sales in the first six months like in 2019.

Sales fell by 2.7 percent over the course of the first half year 2019 to around 46 million hectoliters, as reported by the Federal Statistical Office. Domestic business declined by 2.7 percent, which was much better than exports to other EU states which declined by 6.1 percent. Hardly surprising, tax-free beer given to employees was also down 3.0 percent. Only export to countries outside the EU could be increased by 1.7 percent to 3.87 million hectoliters.

Beer blends with lemonade, cola, fruit juices and other non-alcoholic additives which account for almost 5 percent of the total volume in Germany fell only by 1.5 percent. As usual, however, the figures do not include non-alcoholic beers and malt beverages or beer imported from countries outside the European Union (EU). Especially non-alcoholic beer is in Germany like in most parts of the world on the rise but since breweries do not have to pay beer tax on them, the sales are not recorded. “It is to be expected that the positive development in this segment will continue and that in the future every tenth beer brewed in Germany will be alcohol-free," says Holger Eichele, Managing Director of the German Brewers Association.

Part of the decline in sales could be predicted, as the previous year was one of the hottest in decades and the football World Cup also helped boosting beer sales. Nevertheless and despite those positive factors, 2018 was the second weakest year in terms of beer sales and may be seen as an indicator for the trend in the years to come.

"You can't subscribe to a summer of the century," says Michael Huber, General Manager of Brauerei C.& A. Veltins, a private brewery from the Sauerland region in the middle of Germany. "Until April, the world was fine for German brewers before sales went down the drains," says Huber who saw his sales declines by around 10 percent in cool May and football-free June. Overall Veltins lost like ist main competitors Krombacher and Bitburger about 2 to 3 percent in the first half of 2019, according to a recent statistics compiled by our publishing house Inside Getraenke from Munich. "Other breweries like Oettinger, that have just gone through a price hike were much worse off with minus 9.5 percent.

“It will be a tough second half of the year, in the course of which the German brewing industry will hardly be able to make up the lost volume,” Huber affirms.

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