This summer, Germany is threatened with shortages in the supply of beer. The reason is a scarce supply of reusable glass bottles which account for about 80% of all beer sales in Germany.
The situation is "extremely tense" says Holger Eichele, General Manager of the German Brewers' Association.
During the corona pandemic, many breweries failed to stock up their bottle pool sufficiently. Now that demand is picking up again and the peak summer season is approaching, many breweries are rushing to buy bottles. However, the bottle manufacturers also reduced their stocks during the pandemic and are now no longer able to keep up with production. Obtaining empties is becoming increasingly difficult for beer bottlers.
In addition, there is the war in Ukraine. In early March, Vetropack’s Gostomel plant was severely damaged and is no longer available for the production of glass bottles for the time being (inside.beer, 6.3.2022).
Germany, which in the past has made itself very dependent on Russian natural gas and oil, is currently suffering greatly from Western sanctions on Russia. With great effort and in a hurry, the country is trying to develop alternative energy sources, which has made primary energy extremely expensive. The energy-intensive glass industry in particular is suffering, and production costs have multiplied in the last months.“Those who do not have long-term contracts currently have to pay 80 percent more for new glass bottles than they did a year ago. Some breweries are threatened with idling, they may soon be without bottles,” says Eichele.
Not only glass bottles are affected. The prices for almost all raw and other production materials have almost exploded. “The cost increases are beyond all dimensions,” Eichele adds. “The prices go through the roof. We have never experienced anything like it!” According to the manager, electricity has become 250 percent more expensive than last year, brewing malt 70 percent and Euro pallets 150 percent, just to name a few.
And to make things worse, both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have disrupted supply chains. In the past, many truck drivers in central Europe came from the Ukraine.Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, all Ukrainian men of military age have been drafted into the military and are therefore missing in the logistics industry. "Because there are no truck drivers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the breweries and the beverage trade to maintain the supply chain," says Eichele.
A spokeswoman of Bitburger, one of the leading beer brands in Germany, reaffirms "enormous price increases" and "scarce capacities". The demand for glass bottles on the market "currently often exceeds the existing supply", she was cited by Bild.
This year with the return of the Oktoberfest (inside.beer, 29.4.2022), also foreign visitors to Germany will experience the problems. Despite the fact that the beer at the festival is not sold in glass bottles but is draught beer, the “Oktoberfestmass” (1 liter of beer especially brewed for the festival by Munich breweries), will cost between EUR 12,50 and EUR 13,00. This is about 8-13% more than at the last “Wiesn” in 2019.