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Polish Beer Sales Plunge 7% in 2023, Industry Hopes for Rebound Despite Inflationary Woes

BUSINESSPolish Beer Sales Plunge 7% in 2023, Industry Hopes for Rebound Despite Inflationary Woes

According to NielsenIQ data, beer sales in 2023 fell by nearly 7 percent, which means that Poles bought 400 million fewer half-liter bottles and cans of the foamy beverage than the previous year. Beer has been under pressure from rising costs for several seasons, and consumers are very sensitive to its price increase – especially since inflation and high living costs have changed their priorities in terms of household budget. Despite everything, the beer industry hopes for a rebound. “In the coming years, we expect stability and slowly progressing recovery,” predict experts from the Polish Brewers Association – Browary Polskie.

According to the latest NielsenIQ data, in 2023 the sales decrease reached 2 million hectoliters of beer. The market value increased, but this growth is only dictated by rising prices.

“I would like to note that just five years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the sales volume was almost 37 million hectoliters, and as a result of the pandemic in two years it decreased by 2 million hl. However, in 2023 there was a decrease on the market by another 2 million hectoliters,” says Igor Tikhonov, President of the Management Board of the Association of Brewery Employers in Poland – Browary Polskie.

The industry points out that last year’s declines are the cumulative effect of many negative factors – the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, excise tax increases and inflation and soaring prices of energy, raw materials, packaging, and logistics. Together, they led to an increase in beer prices by an average of 15.2 percent in 2023.

“High inflation has affected virtually all product categories, including beer. Over the past two years, the cost of beer production has increased significantly, by almost 25 percent. In other categories, including the beverage market, we observe similar increases,” says Igor Tikhonov. “One of the main factors responsible for this increase is energy prices, which have not yet returned to pre-crisis and pre-war in Ukraine levels. All suppliers take this into account in the prices of goods – regardless of whether it is glass manufacturers, transport companies, or raw material producers, including barley and hops, whose prices have also seen a significant increase and still remain high.”

According to NielsenIQ, in 2023 sales fell in almost every segment of the beer market. The most expensive beers, the top and ultra-premium segment, which had been growing in previous years, and the cheapest proposals from the economy segment, slowed down the most.

“From the data, we can deduce that the most price-sensitive consumer is the one who consumes the cheapest beers and his price increases affect the most, so he simply limits consumption. However, on the other hand, top and ultra-premium beers, which were and are bought as a source of pleasure, seeking new flavors and sensory experiences, have also suffered because they have fallen victim to savings and limiting expenditure on pleasures,” explains Marcin Cyganiak, Commercial Director at NielsenIQ.

“Last year consumers had less money, people saved money and spent less,” adds Bartłomiej Morzycki, General Director of the Union of Polish Brewers. “The situation on the beer market is somewhat a result of the economic condition of the country and households. If people have to save in order to, for example, pay a higher loan installment, or are simply afraid of their future and limit consumption, then this situation also affects us.”

Statistics show that last year the non-alcoholic beer segment was much more resistant to the downturn, which, against the backdrop of the declining market, demonstrated relative stability. As a result, the share of this category in the entire market has once again increased (from 6.3 to 6.5 percent). This shows the strength of the NoLo (no alcohol, low alcohol) trend, which has been strengthening for several years.

“This segment initially recorded low values, but now it enjoys great interest from consumers and has seen significant growth in the last five years. I assume that the health and well-being trend that drives it, supported by representatives of the younger generation and active people, will not fall out of favor. On the other hand, the middle segment of the beer market, which is mainly served by middle-aged and older consumers who appreciate Polish brands and are loyal to them, will remain stable. We are therefore hopeful for a recovery, but it will take some time,” predicts Igor Tikhonov.

“We hope that the market downturn in 2023 has already reached its deepest point and now there will be a rebound, thanks to inflation being stopped and the economic situation stabilizing somewhat,” says Bartłomiej Morzycki. “Last year, many people refrained from buying and this slowed down demand. This year, perhaps consumers will get used to the new prices and return to buying. The key issue here will also be improving consumer sentiment and a subjective sense of financial security.”

The general director of the Union of Polish Brewers points out that a great support would also be relevant legislation, which is why the industry strongly counts on, among others, repairing the full gaps and errors in the deposit law and stopping the ongoing excise tax increases, which do not bring budget effects, but contribute to suppressing demand. He emphasizes that Poland is the third largest beer producer in the EU, and on the Polish market, beer is still the largest FMCG category, very important for traditional retail.

“The brewing industry is important, among other things, for the agri-food sector. It generates many thousands of jobs, not only in breweries but in the entire value chain – starting from farmers who supply raw materials for beer production, to trade and catering. Shrinking the beer market means squeezing the entire beer industry chain. About 2 million hectoliters of beer less means hundreds of millions less packaging, caps, labels, tons less barley malt, and hops, and so on. It’s a blow to all those who make a living from beer production, who produce for the needs of the brewing industry,” lists Bartłomiej Morzycki.

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