A new study shows that almost all of Germany's 16 largest breweries sold less beer in the first quarter of this year, reflecting a steady decline in beer consumption in the country.
Germany's national drink is finding ever fewer takers
The study by the specialist magazine Inside released on Thursday said that just two breweries among the 16 largest in Germany registered growth in the first quarter of 2009.
They include the Bavarian brand "Oettinger," whose sales were up two percent. Oettinger, which for years has been Germany's most widely consumed beer, is to take over in August the "Feldschloeßchen" brewery owned by the Danish beer giant Carlsberg.
Famous German beer brand "Krombacher" saw sales plunge by 5.3 percent in the first quarter
The other brewer to show growth in the first quarter - 2.5 percent - is the "Hasseröder" brand. The beer brand is part of Belgium-based AB InBev, the world's largest brewery and the second-largest beer producer in Germany.
The biggest loser in the beer market, according to the study, is the cheaply-priced "Sternburg," an East German brand whose sales plunged 11 percent in the first quarter. The brand is part of the Frankfurt-based Radeberger Group, Germany's largest brewer.
Steady drop in beer consumption
According to the Federal Statistical Office, the German beer market shrank by four percent in the first five months of 2009. Exports to Germany's partners in the 27-nation European Union were also down 12.5 percent in the first quarter.
Thursday's study did not provide a reason for the decline. However, beer sales have been sliding steadily in Germany for more than a decade, a trend that experts have attributed to an increasingly health-conscious public as well as the different drinking habits of younger consumers.
"The market has been significantly shrinking over the last few years," Peter Hahn, head of the German Brewers' Association told news agency dpa earlier this year. "The times when every German drank more than 150 liters of beer annually are definitely gone."
Some have also blamed a public smoking ban in some German states as well as a deep recession for the latest drop in beer consumption.
To add to the woes, Munich's Office of Tourism said in May that revelers at this year's Oktoberfest in September would have to dig deeper into their pockets.
Officials said a one-liter mug of beer will cost between 8.50 euros ($11.63) and 8.60 euros this year - a five percent hike over 2008 prices.
Editor: Neil King