Europe’s beer market is on the road to recovery – report

Martin Banks

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), The European beer industry is bouncing back, with production and consumption progressively moving back towards 2019 levels, new figures published by The Brewers of Europe show.

The 2023 data says that beer sales in the European Union rose to 313 million hectolitres in 2022, up from 301 million hl in 2021 and 297 million hl in 2020, although still not yet at the pre-pandemic level of 322 million hl in 2019.

In terms of production, some 358 million hl of beer was made by breweries in the EU in 2022, up from 344 million hl in 2021 and 342 million hl in 2020.

However, it was still below the 364 million hl recorded in 2019, according to the report, released at this week’s 10th edition of the Beer Serves Europe event which was hosted by The Brewers of Europe.

The figures show the number of active breweries is also up: it rose again in the EU from 9,500 in 2021 to 9,680 in 2022. It is still a far cry from the increases at the end of the last decade when brewery numbers were rising by a thousand a year, but it is nonetheless a sign of the growth and innovation in the sector.

The Brewers of Europe Head of Operations Simon Spillane said the figures showed that brewers were growing stronger than ever.

He “We are looking ahead to a future where there is more and more choice in beer styles and flavors, as well as non-alcoholic and lower-alcohol beer.”

Recent years have seen new challenges since the Covid pandemic struck in 2020, forcing bars, cafés and restaurants to close. It was followed by the war in Ukraine, tightening government budgets, a general cost of living crisis, and a surge in raw materials prices as energy costs rocketed. However, the beer market is on the road to recovery as it rebuilds with a more diverse range of beers than ever – including non-alcoholic beers that now represent over 5% of the European beer market.

The report was unveiled on November 29 at an event that brought together over 300 EU policymakers and brewing representatives in Brussels.

Speaking at the event President of the European Parliament Beer Club, MEP Ivan Štefanec said that beer was helping to power the European economy. “Beer is responsible for 2.6 million direct jobs, but with a multiplier effect of 16 – so for each brewery job there are 16 more jobs created in connected industries like agriculture and transport,” he said, adding that he would continue fighting in the parliament for “fairer” regulation for beer.

Jorge Villavecchia, Vice-President of the Cerveceros de España and Board Member of The Brewers of Europe said that beer is rooted in the traditions of Spain. “Beer is part of Spanish culture and the Mediterranean diet. Consumption patterns in Spain are very healthy: every time we drink beer, we do it with people or while we eat,” he said.

Pedro Yenes, representing the Spanish Presidency of the EU, noted that Spain is the second largest beer producer in the EU, behind only Germany, and that over 90% of the cereals used to brew beer come from the country’s fields. “The beer industry in Spain is not only experiencing remarkable growth but is also dedicated to using domestic raw materials, environmental sustainability, and providing us with delicious beer.”

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.