THE continued closure of hospitality venues domestically and in key international markets resulted in another challenging year for Irish brewers in 2021, but there were some signs of early recovery in the second half of the year, according to a new report.
The annual Irish Beer Market report from Drinks Ireland|Beer, shows that the pandemic resulted in a 46% fall in production between 2020 and 2021, with sales down by 1.3% and per capita consumption down by 2.3%. Overall alcohol consumption continues to decline dramatically in Ireland. The value of beer exports fell by 3% but were still significant at €246m. The most popular destination for Irish beer was Britain, with the United States second.
According to the report, stout sales were heavily hit by the pandemic, as stout is mostly consumed in the on-trade. Prior to Covid, around 30% of beer consumed in Ireland was stout. This fell to 25.3% in 2020, but rose by 6.9% to 32.2% last year. Lager, which was more popular during Covid as it was consumed at home, saw its market share fall last year by just over 8.3%, with ale sales up by 1%.
Non-alcoholic beer is also becoming increasingly popular, with its market share up from 1.1% in 2020 to 1.4% in 2021. For context, non-alcoholic beer’s market share was 0.4% in 2017.
Producers are now focused on driving recovery in the sector but face a range of external pressures like inflation which has increased business costs.
To support recovery and manage these significant pressures, it has called on government to reduce alcohol excise in this year’s budget, as Irish beer drinkers continue to pay the second highest rate of excise on beer in the EU.
Peter Mosley, Managing Director of the Porterhouse Brewing Company and Chair of Drinks Ireland|Beer said: “This report illustrates the significant impact the pandemic continued to have on Irish brewers last year, with production particularly hit.”
Shane Long, MD of Franciscan Well in Cork said: “We are a proud employer in Cork, supporting local jobs and the wider supply chain. We, along with Drinks Ireland, are calling for an excise reduction in this year’s Budget, to enable us to continue to enhance our economic contribution both to the region and Irish economy.
“An excise reduction would benefit the sector and hard pressed consumers, facing rising cost of living pressures.”
Maarten Schuurman, MD of Heineken Ireland said: “Heineken Ireland is a core part of Cork’s vibrant brewing industry. It’s encouraging to see early signs of recovery in the hospitality sector but significant challenges persist with high input cost inflation and other external pressures.”
Michael Barry, Managing Director, Barry & Fitzwilliam said: “We are proud to offer a range of great craft beers from Ireland and across the world, as well as low and non-alcoholic alternatives, to consumers in Cork and beyond. As recovery continues in the sector, an excise reduction will be vital.”