Beers in English pubs again soon?

During the Corona crisis many British people miss one thing in particular: their pub. Soon the beer could be flowing out of the taps in abundance again. But does that make sense at present?

A pint please! After more than three months of a compulsory Corona break, the popular English pubs could open again soon.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to discuss with ministers and scientists behind closed doors about a relaxation of the corona measures also in the catering trade. Johnson will present the results on Tuesday, a government spokeswoman of the German Press Agency in London confirmed.

Many pubs in Great Britain are regarded as second living rooms where people meet in convivial company after work for a beer. Especially in summer, crowds of people often stand in front of the entrances and drink their pint, which is the equivalent of just over half a litre.

When Johnson announced tough measures to contain the pandemic in the second half of March, he became almost theatrical about pub closures: “I know we’re doing something extraordinary. We are taking away the age-old and inalienable right of freeborn people to go to the pub.”

The managing director of the British Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, recently warned: “47,000 pubs and 2,000 breweries in Britain have reached a critical moment and now need a concrete date when they can reopen.” The industry fears the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

For years now, the operators have been fighting against pub deaths, especially in rural areas. A healthier lifestyle, the high beer tax and the smoking ban are keeping many Brits from going to pubs. In cities, on the other hand, it has often been difficult to find a place there.

British media now expect that despite the pandemic many pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers will be allowed to offer their services again from 4 July – but probably with certain safety precautions. The measures only apply to England: Each British part of the country will decide on its own measures in the fight against the virus.

A prerequisite for the pub openings is probably that the two-metre distance rule, which has been in force in England up to now because of the pandemic, will also be relaxed. Otherwise, many operators consider the operation of pubs and restaurants unrealistic and fear that sales will be far too low. A reduction of one metre is under discussion.

Critics, however, warn against premature measures: Britain has the highest number of corona deaths in Europe. The government is also accused of reacting too late and wrongly to the pandemic.

Whether a one-metre distance regulation makes sense and the beer in the pubs will soon be flowing again? Zeshan Qureshi, head of a study on social distance, has his reservations: “Many studies on keeping distance in the transmission of pathogens were based on old data and were not related to the corona virus, the London physician told the BBC. His conclusion: “More social distance is better than less social distance”.

Young target groups prefer low-alcohol beer

Long before the Corona crisis, breweries were already struggling with declining beer consumption. Then closed pubs and cancelled events were added. The Mintel Beer Report provides the latest trends.

Many German beer drinkers are turning to non-alcoholic or low-alcohol varieties. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, as many as 49 percent now reach for such beers, while only 36 percent of those over 45 years of age do so. The overall figure is 41 percent across all age groups.

“Due to the restrictions on movement during the lockdown, many people were afraid of gaining weight,” says Heidi Lanschützer, Associate Director at Mintel. “It is therefore understandable that during this period many people tried to avoid calorie-rich and unhealthy foods and drinks as far as possible”.

The consumption of beer in Germany has been falling for years
Beer consumption has been declining for years: between 2015 and 2019 per capita consumption in Germany fell by more than four percent from 109.5 to 104.8 liters. The Covid 19 pandemic then put the industry to an additional severe test this spring and summer: closed pubs and nationwide cancelled events, including the Munich Oktoberfest.

In view of growing health awareness, the new Beer Report (Mintel) sees great opportunities in marketing the lower calorie content of low-alcohol varieties. However, this potential has hardly been used so far. Yet almost a third (32 percent) of German beer drinkers find the barley juice healthier than many other alcoholic beverages. 45 percent of beer buyers consider the drink to be too calorie-rich, while another 16 percent express the wish for a larger selection of low-calorie beers.

Demand for functional beers is increasing

38 percent of beer drinkers are interested in beers that can be drunk after exercise. 42 percent of this group drink alcohol-free or reduced-alcohol beer. A further 30 percent of the same consumer group would like a wider choice of calorie-reduced options. There is also demand for functional beers: seven percent of consumers find varieties with added vitamins and minerals appealing, and among the 25 to 34-year-old millennials the proportion is as high as 21 percent.

Decline in sales

Germans had less beer thirst in 2019

Annual beer sales in Germany have fallen by more than two million hectolitres, which is equivalent in purely arithmetical terms to the production of a large brewery. There are several reasons for this decline.

The heat and the football World Cup still drove up the German beer thirst in 2018, but for the current year the industry expects a significant drop in sales figures. According to the Federal Statistical Office, beer sales dropped by 2.5 percent to 85.2 million hectoliters by the end of November 2019.

Despite a solid Christmas business, industry experts do not believe that it was possible to make up for the minus by the end of December. “Even though business was still developing positively in December, beer sales will probably be down by about two percent by the end of the year,” says Holger Eichele, the Chief Executive of the German Brewers’ Association.

As in the whole of Europe, beer consumption in Germany has been declining for years, especially due to the aging society. “After the very good summer of 2018, the actually not so bad summer of 2019 was not good enough to compensate for factors such as demographics,” said Niklas Other, editor of the trade magazine “Inside”.

Almost 7000 beer brands in Germany

“Nevertheless, the German brewers are looking optimistically into the new year, which will once again feature an important sporting event with the European Football Championship,” Eichele explains. “What will continue to grow in 2020 is the number of breweries in Germany and the number of beer brands approaching the 7000 mark”. Pils remains the most popular variety with a market share of more than 50 percent, but light beers and regional specialties are growing.

Alcohol-free beers and non-alcoholic mixed beer drinks have also been increasingly popular for years, and according to Eichele, they are aiming for a market share of ten percent. They were not taken into account in the current statistics. However, industry experts assume that the rising sales figures for non-alcoholic beverages will not be able to make up for the decline in alcoholic beer in 2019.

“We are talking about more than 2.2 million hectolitres,” said the spokesman for the Veltins Brewery, Ulrich Biene, with regard to the drop in sales. “This is a large brewery, if you like.” However, the industry will recoup a portion of the hectoliters through the European Championship, the company spokesman also believes.

In August 2019 alone, beer sales had slumped by 11.4 percent compared to the previous year – the biggest drop in sales of alcoholic beer in about three years. According to the latest data from the Federal Statistical Office, sales in November fell by 5.8 percent to 6.66 million hectoliters.

The year 2018 had ended a long lasting downward trend. At that time the beer sales of German breweries had increased minimally by 0.5 percent.