The brewing year 2020/2021 will remain a black stone for the profession in Switzerland. The erosion in sales that began a year earlier was accentuated, mainly due to the restrictions put in place to stem the Covid-19 pandemic and particularly unfavorable weather during the summer.

From October to the end of September, 4.41 million hectoliters were sold on the Swiss market, 4.9% less than a year earlier, which corresponds to more than 68 million “draft” beers, and even 100 million less compared to 2018/2019, reports the Swiss Brewery Association (ASB) on Tuesday in a press release.

Market erosion affects both domestic production and imported beers. Small consolation, sales of non-alcoholic beer grew by more than 13% and their share now stands at 5%, compared to just 4.2% a year earlier.

Restoration at half mast

During the year under review, the share of sales made in catering was reduced to 24%, against 30% in 2019/2020, in favor of the retail trade. This development is to be blamed on the anti-Covid measures put in place by the government in October 2020, explains the ASB, recalling that consumption in public establishments could not resume until the end of May.

Ten years earlier, the proportion between the two distribution channels was still balanced, noted the boss of the association Marcel Kreber, on the occasion of his presentation to the media at the premises of LägereBräu in Wettingen, in the Baden suburb.

For good measure, the weather conditions were particularly unfavorable. The umbrella company points out that Switzerland experienced in 2021 the coldest spring in the last 30 years, and that due to bad weather in June and July, many opportunities for consumption have literally “fallen into the water”.

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The outlook for the 2021/2022 vintage is hardly better. With the arrival of the cold season, the opportunities represented by sporting and cultural events have become scarce since the onset of the crisis and they are generally less frequented. A new confinement would spell the death knell for many breweries, warns the ASB.

Bankruptcies avoided

“The financial situation of brewers is very tense: after 18 months of crisis, many of them have exhausted their reserves,” said Marcel Kreber. Most have resorted to public aid, in particular partial unemployment, and some have had to seek aid for hardship, but “none of our members has gone bankrupt, to my knowledge,” he said. .

Returning to the difficulties linked to logistics chains, the boss of the ASB indicated that “many brewers have concluded long-term supply contracts with their suppliers”. Asked about possible price increases, he replied that it will be up to the different types of operations to weigh interests against possible losses of market share.

The pandemic was an opportunity for many breweries to improve their online presence, but this distribution channel remains marginal for the time being, in particular because of the high logistical constraints for relatively small quantities.

“As a player in the food industry, the brewing sector provides essential goods”, recalled the president of the ASB, Nicolo Paganini, stressing that the main problem currently facing the branch is the scarcity of opportunities to consume beer, much more than the difficulty of obtaining it.

ats / iar

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