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Not much call for alcohol-free beer

Following years of falling sales, beer makers are optimistic that the decline can stop this year, Világgazdaság reported.

In 2010, the sales of biggest beer makers in Hungary dropped 6%, economic daily Világgazdaság wrote based on a recent study. Although export rose by 49%, it was not enough to offset the decline in domestic sales. The rate of imported beers grew 5.3 % last year.

Bottled and alcohol-free beers were hardest hit.

Bottled beers – with plastic and non-returnable bottles – saw a 25% and 20% drop in sales respectively. The demand for beers with returnable bottles also fell more than 10%.

Sales of beer sold in barrels have stagnated as opposed to those of canned beers, which have seen a modest 0.4% rise. Demand for cheaper brand beers has increased, continuing the trend started last year. Quality beers have been hit the hardest with a 9.3% slump in 2010. Premium category beers have been unaffected.

The market share of alcohol-free beers has been insignificant earlier as well, but sales have dropped by 25% in a year, from 126,000 to 94,000 hectoliters. Strangely enough, since the introduction of zero tolerance in 2007, the demand for alcohol-free beers have fallen by nearly a half.  

Another notable trend is that sales have shifted from the catering industry to the retail sector. People buy beers in shops and supermarkets rather than bars and restaurants for financial reasons, the paper wrote.

Still, market players are optimistic. "Indeed, 2010 was a tough year, but the first half of 2011 met  expectations," Éva Kiss, head of communication of Heineken Hungária Kft told Világgazdaság. She is hopeful that the decline can slow down or stop this year.

Sluggish demand in the beer industry has been boosted by flavored beers. The market share of flavored beers is on the rise and they have managed to reach a new circle of consumers, Sükösd Zsuzsa, communication and legal director of Borsodi Sörgyár Kft told Világgazdaság.

Despite declining sales, beer makers paid 6% more taxes in 2010 than a year earlier. According to the beer association, the increase is due to the hike of excise duties. Of HUF 61.41 billion in taxes and fees, excise duties accounted for HUF 33.65 billion.