'Exploding costs': German beer sales go flat

Beer foam.
Beer foam. Copyright Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle/San Francisco Chronicle
Copyright Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle/San Francisco Chronicle
By Joshua Askew with AP
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More than 7.6 billion litres of beer were produced inside Germany last year, official figures show. That's equivalent to 91 litres per person.


German beer sales have fallen, after a fleeting post-COVID pickup in 2022, the Federal Statistical Office announced on Tuesday. 

Sales by German beer brewers and distributors resumed a long-term downward trend in the first six months of this year, dropping to 4.2 billion litres. 

That's 2.9% lower compared to the previous year, though Germany still has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in Europe. 

DBB, the German brewers' association, said cool spring weather and a reluctance of consumers to spend amid biting high inflation was behind the decline.

This is proving to be another "enormously demanding" year for breweries, most of them small and medium-sized, said the group's managing director, Holger Eichele, in a statement.

They have faced "exploding costs since the beginning of the pandemic" and can only pass on a small part of those increases in the form of higher prices, he added. 

The figures include domestic sales and exports of German beer, plus beer imported from elsewhere in the European Union (EU). Alcohol-free beer and beer imported from non-EU countries are excluded. 

Exports by German brewers within the bloc were also down, though only by a slight 0.2% at 404 million litres. 

The findings are indicative of bad economic headwinds in Germany, the only major economy not expected to grow this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

Most countries are experiencing weak economic growth and consumer demand, amid rising interest rates and biting inflation. However, Germany has been hit hard by its over-reliance on Russian gas, which made it particularly vulnerable to price rises and supply issues stemming from the Ukraine war.  

German brewers have also been struggling with a longer-term downward trend fuelled by health concerns, despite a brief recovery in sales after COVID lockdowns were lifted. 

On Tuesday, the German statistics office said more than 474 million litres of alcohol-free beer were produced inside the country last year. 

This compares with more than 7.6 billion litres of alcoholic beer - enough to provide 91 litres to every single one of Germany's 83 million people.

Drinking trends have changed across Europe since the COVID pandemic, like almost every other aspect of our lives. 

Last year, a report by the Institute of Alcohol Studies found that the number of "high-risk" drinkers had increased in the UK, along with how much they drank. 

In France, meanwhile, a Coviprev survey found that nearly a quarter of French people reduced their drinking over the pandemic between 2020 and 2021, though more than a quarter of smokers increased their tobacco consumption. 

Germany saw a sizeable surge in the number of people seeking help for alcohol addiction during the pandemic.

According to a 2022 study by the German Center for Addiction Issues (DHS), three million Germans between the ages of 18 and 64 had an alcohol problem in 2018.

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