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Do Dutch beer sales reveal Europe falling out of love with lager?

Beer sales fell in the Netherlands by 5.6% in 2023, according to fresh figures from the breweries association in the country, following reports of a similar decline in Germany last week.

The Nederlandse Brouwers sales in both the on-trade and domestic consumption were down with sales of Pilsner and other beer blends falling by 6.5% and 15.2% respectively.

In terms of speciality beer styles and also non-alcoholic beer, both of which have grown in recent years, sales remained “stable” this year. The association also reported that inflation in the country had a negative impact on sales.

It said that a bad summer in terms of weather also played a role in overall sales, especially Radler, which was mainly drunk during warmer conditions.

Despite the poorer showing last year, the breweries group described alcohol-free beer as the “growth engine” for sales in the past decade, up by 55% between 2010 and 2022. It also said more variants of alcohol-free beer had been added during the decade-long period, and it was increasingly available in a number of different locations in the on-trade, such as sports facilities and student cafes.

But despite the stabilised sales after a period of pronounced growth, it said the outlook for 2024 was “not good” as a new tax on soft drinks, which applied to non-alcoholic beer, by 196%.

Brewery closures

In addition, and for the first time since 2001, the number of breweries in the country has decreased.

Information from Stiching Erfgoed Nederlandse Biercultuur revealed that 76 breweries stopped in 2023, including 27 breweries and 48 brewery tenants. The reasons given for closure included bankruptcies and a lack of profitability.

Director of Nederlandse Brouwers, Fred Teeven, said: “Alcohol-free beer has been the motor of beer sales.”

“We are calling for 0% tax on alcohol-free beer. The breweries have made a deal with the government to promote the sale of alcohol-free beer. That is now being undermined by the tax hike.”


The news follows Germany also slowing down its consumption of beer.

Beer sales in Germany dropped 4.5% in 2023 as part of a long-term downward trend, according to official figures revealed via AP Newswire.

Figures from the Federal Statistical Office showed that German-based breweries and distributors sold about 8.4 billion litres (2.2 billion gallons) of beer last year and yet hastened to add the figure doesn’t include non-alcoholic beer and beer imported from outside the European Union.

According to reports, back in 2022, beer sales increased 2.7% owing largely to a recovery in demand both at home and in the EU following the end of pandemic-related restrictions. However, it pointed out that demand in both markets was lower again in 2023.


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