Corona is Driving Beer Sales into the Cellar

The corona crisis is severely affecting breweries in Germany. Last year, their beer sales fell to the historically low value of 8.7 billion liters because of the ban on celebrations and the catering trade that was closed for months, as reported by the Federal Statistical Office. But the volume decline of 5.5 percent compared to the previous year shows the dramatic situation only very inadequately, complains the brewers’ association. Smaller companies in particular have long had to struggle to survive, while a few large breweries have benefited from the increased retail sales of bottled beer.

The big bankruptcy wave has not yet materialized, says Holger Eichele, President of the German Brewers’ Association. He is usually proud of the diverse brewing traditions in the country. The association has listed more than 1,400 companies nationwide, most of them only sell their beer in the immediate vicinity of their brewery. “They notice every unusual festival.” The problem is exacerbated with the ongoing Corona ban for pubs and restaurants, because they no longer buy draft beer. But this is the particularly lucrative business with high added value for the breweries.

In Darmstadt, Hesse, there was a lack of events last year such as the Hainerfest or the music festival in the Schlossgraben, where up to 500,000 young people celebrate the night with lots of beer. According to its own statements, the Darmstadt-based private brewery owned by the Koehler family suffered a loss of 1.1 million euros in 2020 instead of the expected profit of 200,000 euros.

The big brand in the industry were able to better compensate for their gastro losses with increased bottled beer sales through the food retail trade. The specialist portal “Inside” sees comparatively small volume losses in well-known national brands such as Krombacher (-4.8 percent), Oettinger (-1.5 percent) or Veltins (-3.5 percent). Bitburger (-8.0 percent) and Warsteiner (-16.2 percent) were hit harder with their higher gastro proportions.

The Lemke brewery in Berlin is looking for new sales channels via the Internet and wants to benefit from the capital’s cool export image, according to its own classification. “No company can cope with a drop in sales of more than half in the long run,” says founder Oli Lemke, who no longer wants to rule out layoffs in the current year. At least there is now a prospect of state aid: “After the latest changes, we can now get the November / December aid for the catering industry. Our tax advisors are working to the limit because everything is extremely complex.”


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