After Post-COVID Pickup, Beer Sales in Germany Resume Their Slide

An industry group attributed the drop to a cool spring and high inflation.

Beer bottles are filled at the Veltins brewery in Meschede, Germany, Aug. 24, 2022.
Beer bottles are filled at the Veltins brewery in Meschede, Germany, Aug. 24, 2022.
AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File

BERLIN (AP) — Sales by German beer brewers and distributors resumed a long-term downward trend in the first six months of this year after picking up a bit in 2022 thanks to the end of most COVID-19 restrictions, official figures showed Tuesday.

Sales dropped to 4.2 billion liters (1.1 billion gallons) in the January-June period, 2.9% lower than a year earlier, the Federal Statistical Office said. The figure includes domestic sales and exports of German beer, as well as beer imported from other European Union countries for sale in Germany. It excludes alcohol-free beer and beer imported from countries outside the EU.

Sales inside Germany, which accounted for 82% of the total, were down 3.5% to 3.4 billion liters (899 million gallons). Exports were only slightly down — German brewers exported 404 million liters (106.7 million gallons) of beer to other countries in the European Union, a 0.4% decline, and 347.9 million liters (91.9 million gallons) to nations outside the EU, 0.2% less than a year earlier.

German brewers have been struggling with a longer-term downward trend fueled by health concerns and other factors, although last year saw a slight recovery after lockdowns shut restaurants and bars for long periods in 2020 and 2021.

The overall figure for the first half of the year is 12.2% lower than a decade earlier, the statistics office said.

The German brewers' association, DBB, attributed the latest decline to cool weather in the spring and consumers' reluctance to spend in the face of persistently high inflation.

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

The statistics office said separately on Tuesday that more than 474 million liters (125.2 million gallons) of alcohol-free beer were produced in Germany last year, nearly twice as much as a decade earlier. But that compares with more than 7.6 billion liters (2 billion gallons) of alcoholic beer.

More in Consumer Trends