The World Cup was a flop for the German brewers

Whe the boss of Veltins -Brauerei was asked about the course of business over the past year and received an ambivalent answer: “We are very satisfied, but by no means euphoric,” says Veltins General Representative Michael Huber. Bucking the industry trend, the family brewery from the Sauerland region is still on course for expansion and once again achieved a sales record last year. At 3.35 million hectoliters, the total output was more than 8 percent higher than in the previous year. At the same time, however, the costs for electricity, gas, malt, carbon dioxide and bottle caps rose by a total of tens of millions: “We’ve never had that before,” Huber annoyed. Only pallets have become cheaper – instead of 24 euros, only twelve euros are due.

Overall, the situation on the beer market has eased again. Draft beer in particular has experienced a brilliant return because the catering industry has been spared lockdowns. “People were really craving beer again,” says Veltins Sales Director Volker Kuhl, “accordingly, the draft beer business really took off in the summer.” Veltins was able to increase draft beer output by 80 percent last year. This means that Veltins is only 18 percent below the pre-pandemic level in the draft beer business with the catering trade.

Kuhl expressly praises the state’s Corona aid for pubs, bars and restaurants: “Despite all the problems, gastronomy has remained stable.” Beer sales are now normalizing and consumers are returning to their old habits. While hardly any draft beer was sold during the pandemic due to the lockdowns and consumers in the beverage stores reached for bottled beer instead, last year it was exactly the opposite: draft beer sales recovered, but consumers bought less bottled beer again.

The World Cup didn’t help the brewers last year. “The World Cup fizzled out,” says Huber, “it was only interesting for Lionel Messi.”

“The World Cup was only interesting for Lionel Messi,” says Michael Huber.

Image: dpa

There are clear regional differences in the general recovery of the market. While Bavarians are now drinking more beer than before the pandemic, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein have not yet returned to a real beer mood after the pandemic (see grafic). Across Germany, per capita consumption rose last year for the first time in five years. The average German drank around 94.3 liters of beer, Veltins estimates based on preliminary data. Unfortunately for the industry, the long-term downward trend in beer consumption remains intact. In 1980, per capita consumption was just under 150 liters.

By far the most popular type of beer among Germans is Pils. However, consumer preferences are slowly changing. Pils is losing market share, wheat beer is also losing, and recently the specialty beer segment, which has been doing well for a long time, is also losing. At Veltins, this is reflected in the shrinking sales of the “Grevensteiner” country beer brand.

Light beer, on the other hand, has been in vogue for years. In the meantime, it has moved up to second place behind Pils in the ranking of the most popular types of beer in Germany. In order not to miss the trend, Veltins launched the “Helles Pülleken” beer brand in May 2020, which can only be bought in bottles. With success: Veltins sold around 256,000 hectoliters of it last year – an increase of around 25 percent.

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