German Beerdrinking On The Wane?

Population changes are going to bring many cultural changes in their wake: and I’m not thinking only of immigration and multiculturalism here. Ageing populations will have different tastes and preferences, among them, apparently, will be changes in the quantity and types of alchohol consumed.

Among the explantations offered for the fact that the nation of beerdrinkers may soon no longer be one are the trend towards healthier living, economic problems (although that used to be thought to be a cause of raised consumption) and a deposit now payable on many cans and bottles. But there is no getting away from the fact that the big cause is changing demographics. Less young people means less beer. Now what else does it mean?

Germans drank less beer for a fourth straight year in 2003 as a new government deposit on cans and an aging population led to sales erosion at the nation’s 1,280 breweries, data showed on Monday. “Even the hottest summer in a century could not even out the slump in sales caused by political decisions,” said Erich Dederichs, a spokesman for the German Brewers’ Association, which represents around 90 percent of beermakers. Beer production fell 2.1 percent from the previous year, the eighth decline in the past decade, to 105.5 million hectoliters, from 107.8 million in 2002, the Federal Statistics Office said.
A hectoliter is 100 liters (22 Imperial gallons). Last year’s sales were enough to fill about 10,560 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

German beer production has been declining steadily since the mid-1990s, when breweries produced more than 115 million hectoliters a year. The country is still the third biggest consumer on a per capita basis, behind the Czech Republic and Ireland.

Brewers have said changing demographics are partly to blame for the drop in demand as fewer younger people in the German population means fewer beer drinkers.

They also blame the slide on the fact that drinkers must pay a 25-cent deposit for each throwaway can, a rule that came into effect in January 2003 to promote recycling. The effect of the law has been to virtually eliminate canned beer on the German market.

Over 80 per cent of Germany’s 5,000 brands of beer are now sold in reusable containers, with glass and plastic bottles replacing tins.

The production figures included a 9.1 percent increase in beer exports last year to 12.3 million hectoliters. Germany sold nine million hectoliters to its 14 European Union partners and 3.1 million hectoliters to countries outside the bloc.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

5 thoughts on “German Beerdrinking On The Wane?

  1. Now, I’ve always thought the deposit on tins singularly stupid, but the Reuters correspondent has one point wrong. Bottles aren’t ‘replacing’ tins. Any beer worth drinking has always come in a bottle. Tins of beer are fit only for drinking out of your takeaway sack at the Bahnhof.

    Better than the bottled stuff is, of course, beer frisch vom Fass. Here is what you all should do: be on W?rzburg’s Sternplatz on a hot summer day, enjoying a freshly-pumped Distelh?user Hefeweizen. Then you will understand that there is no point in talking about tins. (It’s better than Paulaner, if you can believe that, though not even properly Bavarian!)

    But it’s true that the market seems under invasion by bizarre new products presumably aimed at the younger set; beer-and-coke, Tequila-flavoured beer, not to mention the appalling alcopops.

  2. Edward: Since you have of course plotted the poulation of “young persons” against the national beer consumption in Germany for several decades to justify your claim, would you consider posting the graph? I’d certainly be interested in seeing it!

  3. It’s because of all those Muslim immigrants to Europe. They’re teatotalers, the lot of them, and they’re the ones having kids. If they’re not flat on their back drunk at least twice a week, well, then they’re not really integrating, are they? :^)

    Actually, I work for a company whose biggest single investor is a medium-sized family-owned brewery. They are expanding east in a big way and as I understand it, so is most of Europe’s vice industry. Cigarettes, booze, porn – you name it – it’s all headed for Warsaw and Prague. The youth demographics are not the reason why. It’s got a lot more to do with social attitudes towards drinking and unhealthy behaviour in general, and those, in turn, have a lot to do with poverty. The harder you have to work to make ends meet, the more likely you are to get your pleasures in inexpensive, reliable, commercially available forms.

  4. Metrosexuals [an urban male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. (Sooner or later the majority of males will strive to be metrosexual – call it the anti-proletarian movement ;-D).] don’t drink beer when they go out and drinking alcohol during the day is considered bad manners anyway. Cocktails are in these days! Why drink the same stuff as the people at the construction site (or even at the Bahnhof ;-D)?

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