In the first four months of this year, the production of the five largest Hungarian beer producers was 1.6 million hectoliters and their domestic sales 1.7 million hectoliters, the former 8 % and the latter 4 % lower than in the same period of 2019, the director of the 30-year-old Association of Hungarian Brewers, Sándor Kántor told the state news agency MTI.
In the first four months of the year, cask beer sales, a good indicator of the performance of the hotel and catering (HORECA) sector, were only 77 % of their pre-pandemic level, he noted.
For the full year last year, the combined sales of the top five beer producers in Hungary (Borsodi Sörgyár Ltd., Carlsberg Hungary Ltd., Dreher Sörgyárak Plc., Heineken Hungária Plc., and Pécsi Sörfőzde Plc.) were 6.370 million hectoliters, up 3.1% on 2020 but down 4.7% on 2019. Domestic production was 5.568 million hectoliters last year, up 3.5% on the previous year but 5.9% down on 2019's 5.915 million hectoliters. The industry's budget contribution in 2021 was HUF 78 billion.
The number of people working in the brewing industry did not decrease during the pandemic: at the end of 2021, the five largest Hungarian producers directly employed 1,620 people, a slight increase compared to 1,611 in 2020 and 1,576 in 2019, Sándor Kántor said.
Based on the first four months of data, it is unlikely that the industry's performance in 2022 as a whole will reach pre-pandemic levels, but rather that manufacturing is struggling, he said. He added that this may be due to procurement-related reasons and is also linked to rising manufacturing costs.
As to whether the shortage of bottles in Hungary, which press reports suggest is a problem for German producers, could also be a problem in Hungary, Sándor Kántor said that the structure of beer distribution in Hungary is very different from that in Germany, with the infinitely recyclable aluminum can dominating retail sales, currently accounting for over 70% of retail sales. In Hungary, refillable bottles – the lack of which German producers fear – are mainly used in the catering sector, which returns almost all empty bottles to producers. It is therefore not expected that there will be a shortage.
On domestic market trends, the association's director said that the first four months of the year saw the continued advance of super-premium and premium beers, with sales up 20-30% on last year's base. Sales of flavored and unflavored non-alcoholic beers also increased by double digits, if not by the same amount. This means that the premium category now accounts for 30% of total sales, while non-alcoholic beers are stable at 5%.
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