In 2020, beer sales across Europe plummeted by 42% but have already seen a recovery in 2021.
The increase – even if rather small – in beer sales has partially absorbed the overall slowdown in the European sector caused by the pandemic. The year 2020 closed with a net drop of 9% compared to the previous year, cancelling revenue by over €3 million.
These data points do not make for comfortable reading, but could have been much worse had the majority of pubs, bars and restaurants not reinvented themselves with takeaway and delivery services.
But that’s not all. Estimates show that employment generated by the beer value chain has dropped by around a third during 2020, going from 2.6 million to 1.8 million people. The majority of losses being within the hospitality industry, closely followed by the retail industry.
2020 in Europe – the impact on the brewing industry
We are very aware that unfortunately most of the continent has seen complete closures of bars, pubs and restaurants for long or short periods of time. Restrictions were relaxed in the summer months to then return again as autumn and winter approached.
All this has meant a 42% drop in wholesale beer sales, going from 126 million hectolitres in 2019 to 73 million hectolitres in 2020. Redress arrived from the retail sector with the result being a much more limited drop in light of the pandemic. As already mentioned, the impact became ‘only’ 9% of all annual beer sales for Europe leading to a revenue loss of €3 million.
Changes in the relationship between brewers and consumers
Due to the severe impact Covid-19 had on the brewing sector, many producers have devised new strategies to get close to consumers in an attempt to limit losses linked to pub, bar and restaurant sales. Here are a few of them.
The main characteristic of 2020 was a significant increase in free time compared to normal. For this reason, producers and others have taken advantage of the situation to offer tasting boxes directly to consumers’ homes with individual or group Zoom sessions.
It’s one way to communicate beer culture, gain potential new customers and build customer loyalty, as well as creating communities – a very important aspect.
Online tastings have been offered with success by many brewers. A clear sign that 2020 has altered some consumer habits around alcohol consumption in Europe – and the rest of the world – for ever.
With the closure of bars and restaurants, a number of smaller brewers found they had unsold warehouse stock. In light of this, several producers were able to turn this situation to their advantage. They made themselves known to local customers and offered them products that are difficult to get hold of through large distribution networks.
So it’s not by chance that the artisan beer sector has remained stable with little fluctuation compared to the previous year, despite the pandemic.
Home delivery has effectively become the essential channel to reach customers. Created as a way to overcome the closures of bars and restaurants, it cannot be considered a temporary measure today. Now more than ever, the average customer has discovered the convenience of delivery and this will remain a preferred channel for many even when the pandemic is over.
In 2020, home delivery was the salvation of many artisan beer producers. For example, Brauerei Braukunst managed to sell all the beer in its warehouse in one day just by using WhatsApp to communicate with its customers and delivering their orders direct to their homes. Similarly, Bier Factory, a small Swiss brewer decided to promote other craft beer producers and deliver orders across the country.
Trends for 2021
With the recovery of business activity in the beer industry, such as festivals, it is very likely that the whole industry will recover compared to the previous year. Of course, given the improving situation, it would be good to have a positive close to the year in comparison to 2020.
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