European beer sales dry up in the first half of 2009

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcoholic beverage

Soft drink sales in Western Europe outshone beer in the first half of the year suggesting the recession is prompting people to turn away from the bottle.

According to the Canadean quarterly beverage tracker, beer sales fell by almost 4.5 per cent in the first six months of the year. In volume terms, the drop translates to a 580 million fewer litres.


Beverage market researchers Canadean blamed the falling beer sales on ‘cocooning’, a term used to describe how people hit hard by the recession are opting to stay in rather go out to bars and restaurants.

In some countries, this downward trend has been amplified by increased duty and a smoking ban.

“Nowhere, is this best illustrated than the Netherlands where an excise duty increase and a smoking ban in cafes has triggered a considerable 9 per cent decline in beer sales,”​ said the researchers.

Sales of other alcoholic drinks have also suffered from a similar combination of factors but not to the same extent as beer. Total alcoholic drink sales fell by just over 3.5 per cent in the first six months of the year.

Soft drinks

In contrast soft drink sales have held up strongly in the recession with the hot drink category even reporting sales growth over the same period.

Hot drink sales edged up by less than 0.5 per cent as people drank stayed in and swapped alcoholic drinks at the bar for tea and coffee. Helping the hot drink sales is their cost, which is generally less than alcoholic drinks and other soft drinks.

Overall soft drink sales fared slightly worse than hot drinks in the first half of the year falling 1 per cent on the same period in 2008.

Despite the stability Canadean said the figures hide how the total value of the products sold is on the decline. The researchers said private label is outperforming branded beverages in every European market except Belgium, Finland, Sweden and Greece.

Hard discounters are also flourishing and are broadening their net across Western Europe, with more and more outlets appearing in the region.

Looking to the rest of the year, Canadean said it expects sales to pick up relative to last year because the financial crisis hit in the second half of 2008. Also, hot temperatures in the latter half of the summer could help improve volume performance.

Beer sales are therefore predicted to end the year 3 per cent down, while soft drinks should finish the year only slightly down.

Related topics Markets Beer & cider

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