World: The beer market is still 14 million hl short of the “world before COVID”

In the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, the world beer market recovered slightly.  While the 40 largest brewing groups in the world have sold combined about 94 million hectoliters less beer in 2020 than the year before (, 20.06.2021), the combined output of the world’s 40 largest brewers in 2021 rose by about 80 million hectoliters to nearly 1.7 billion hectoliters, representing an increase of just below five percent. However, compared to the “world before COVID”, still 14 million hectoliters were missing last year, according to a recent list published by the Barth Haas Group.

The high proportion of brewing groups leading the rankings is particularly noteworthy: The top four – AB InBev, Heineken, Carlsberg and China Res. Snow Breweries – alone accounted for a good 61 percent of the beer output of the top 40 breweries. AB InBev went clear at the top of the table with an output of nearly 582 million hectoliters (34 percent).

2021 produced winners and losers among the different brewing nations. Many Western European countries were still laboring under the COVID-related restrictions. Nearly all the breweries in the beer stronghold of Germany, for example, had to swallow losses of output. For countries in most of the other regions around the world, however, the situation eased somewhat, with beer sales rising in many places.

Internationally, 2021 also saw changes in the market resulting from mergers and acquisitions, although the year was mainly characterized by the consolidation of minority shareholdings. Heineken, for example, acquired a majority shareholding in United Breweries in India (, 23.6.2021) and gained control of Namibia Breweries by taking over the Distell Group (, 15.11.2021).

Kirin/Lion acquired Bell’s Brewing, a pioneer in the American craft segment, (, 10.11.2021) and consolidated its position as the leader in this market segment by merging it with New Belgium Brewing, which was already owned by the group. (, 15.4.2022)

There were signs of further market shifts in the first quarter of 2022: In March, Heineken and Carlsberg both announced that they were withdrawing from the Russian market following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (, 28.3.2022). For the same reason, AB InBev announced in April that it was selling its share in a joint venture with the Turkish brewery Anadolu Efes which operates in Russia.(, 22.4.2022)

The list of the top 40 breweries worldwide in 2020 and 2021 can be found here.

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