COVID restrictions, poor summer hit 2020 Hungary beer sales

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The pandemic had the most significant effect on trade sales of beer in Hungary, which saw volumes plummet in 2020 as the government placed restrictions on movement, entertainment, and socialization that hammered the hospitality industry, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. 

The firm released its overview of the market to mark International Beer Day on August 6. 

Although the on-trade (alcohol sales in licensed premises such as bars and pubs) had more or less reopened in summer 2020, following the relaxation of the country’s first lockdown in the spring, there was far less tourism and fewer festivals, with the largest ones canceled, Euromonitor said. 

The fall lockdown then put the brakes on any potential recovery, and in addition, consumers have been reluctant to return to the channel even when it has been open. According to Euromonitor data, the drop in on-trade volume was 48.3 million liters in 2019-2020 compared to 2018-2019. In monetary terms, the market shrank by HUF 45.6 million.

This drop in on-trade volumes was too much to be offset by the increased off-trade sales (not consumed on the premises), which have seen only a slight increase in sales as consumers drink at home instead. Off-trade lager sales, for example, rose by 8% year-on-year in 2019-2020, while sales of stout fell 3.8%. 

“The industry has attempted to respond to this by pivoting more to the on-trade,” Lina Sidorenke, senior communications executive for Central and Eastern Europe, told the bbj.hu. “Towards the end of the year, during the November and December on-trade lockdown, some premium beer products pushed harder at their off-trade offer, but overall, there is set to be a decline in total beer volume sales in 2020,” she explained.

“Off-trade beer was not stockpiled in the first lockdown when consumer foodservice units were closed, as anxious consumers chose not to spend on ‘pleasure products.’ In addition, Hungary had a mediocre summer in terms of weather, and sales of products historically driven by heat, such as beer, water, and ice cream, lagged significantly behind in terms of growth compared to the trends seen in recent years,” she added.

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