German brewers eye Italy

With local consumption falling, exports become more important

July 28, 2004 - Younger Germans continue to drink less beer than their parents, increasing concerns of German brewers anxious to find enough customers for their beer. As a result brewers are seeking to sell more to to other western European nations such as Italy for growth.


With an average intake of 145 liters each, Germans remain the biggest drinkers of beer in Europe, according to a new report from market analysts Mintel, about 20 liters more than the British.

Younger drinkers indicate that beer an increasingly old fashioned image among many young drinkers. The purity law, Reinheitsgebot, that has been around for almost 500 years has hamstrung brewers when it comes to developing new flavors and styles of beer something which brewers in other mature markets embraced in a bid to stimulate growth.

Many of these innovations such as light or low-carb beers have been designed in part to attract more female drinkers to what has traditionally been a male-dominated market. But old habits die hard in Germany, which has one of the lowest proportions of female beer drinkers in Europe 29% of women drink beer there compared to 75% of men. In countries such as Spain and the United Kingdom, the proportion of female beer drinkers is more than 40%.

This is in part due to the fact that Germany women account for a much lower share of the workforce than in other western European nations, Mintel's Michelle Strutton suggests. "After work socializing is a big opportunity for drinking alcohol and many German women will simply be missing out on this," she said.

Mintel also found that almost one in five (17%) German adults believe the point of drinking is to get drunk.

Western European consumers (in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK) spent 59 million euros on beer in 2003, with Germany accounting for 40% of that total, just ahead of the UK with 39%. But it is countries such as Spain and Italy, where volume and value sales remain the lowest, which have the greatest potential, according to Mintel.

"In the UK, Germany and France, falling alcohol consumption and the rising popularity of deep discounting in the off-trade have damaged both volume and value sales," said Strutton. "Italy and Spain, which have relatively smaller markets, have seen sales boosted by good weather and flourishing tourism industries, as well as rising interest in beer."

Mintel predicts that Italy will be the fastest growing beer market between now and 2007.

"Drinking socially is a relatively new phenomenon in Italy, where alcohol was traditionally an accompaniment to meals. Italy is now attempting to emulate the successful British market through encouraging people to drink in pubs and bars. A large number of pubs and other drink-oriented night-spots have opened in recent years and are targeted at urban-dwelling students and professionals who are most likely to drink beer and to go out," Strutton said.

The outlook for Germany, on the other hand, is far from promising, with consumption declining and both market value and volume expected to remain static at best in the next four years.

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