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Poland’s beer market – flavoured and niche beers becoming more and more popular

Published: 23.05.2014

Poles drink 100 liters of beer annually, the new data of the Central Statistical Office show, giving them a place among the top 5 nations consuming the most beer in Europe. Although Czechs are far ahead of Poles, with average beer consumption at almost 160 liters a year, the Polish beer market growth has been stunningly dynamic since the 1990s. In the first decade of the 21st century, the consumption of alcohol in Poland grew by 30%, with half of this growth generated by beer, making it the most frequently consumed alcohol in Poland.

In terms of beer production, Poland gives way only to Germany and the UK, beerpubs.pl website reports. Altogether there are currently 97 breweries across the country, which produce in total almost 1000 different kinds and brands of beer. The production centers around 3 biggest corporations, which control over 85% of the market.

The biggest beer producer is Kompania Piwowarska, which owns such popular brands as Lech, Tyskie or Żubr. The company claims a 38% market share . The second biggest beer maker in Poland, which owns Żywiec, Warka or Tatra brands, is Heineken-controlled Grupa Żywiec, with a market share of ca. 30%. The third biggest producer is Carlsberg group, which owns Okocim and Kasztelan, with a market share of ca. 20%.

Source: The Union of Brewing Industry Employers in Poland, prepared by PAP

The rest of the market belongs to small companies producing niche, craft or regional beers as well as to the mini-breweries, which have become one of the biggest phenomena in recent years. The development of this small but dynamic segment of the market can be exemplified by the number of new breweries opening up in Poland –21 in 2013 alone.

The market slowly abandons traditional lager for niche beers

What is the cause of this trend coming around? Market insiders mainly point to the market saturation and changing customer preferences.

“I think that the market is already saturated.  Consumption could grow, but we would for that we would need economic growth of  ca. 4%, not 2.5% like now,” said Tomasz Bławat, the CEO of Carlsberg Polska and the head of the Union of the Brewing Industry Employers in Poland (UBIEP)  in a conversation with portalspozywczy.pl in early March 2014.

Although the brewers ended last year with production decline of 2%, the decline was by and large the result of a late and short summer as well as of the high base in 2012. 2012 saw an all-time record of beer consumption thanks to the European Football Championship EURO 2012.

Despite that, both small and big breweries whose offer includes craft or flavored beers  have recorded  two-digit growth rates in these segments for a couple of years now.

Source: The Union of Brewing Industry Employers in Poland, prepared by PAP

Flavored beers segment alone has gone a long way from a market share close to nothing to 11% in 2013. The sub-segment of radler, a mix of lemonade or juice and beer, has achieved the highest growth rate of 10-20%, according to Carlsberg CEO.

Poles thirsty for new flavours 

The growing popularity of beers different from the traditional lager is related to the historical and cultural background of Polish beer consumption.

In Germany or Czech Republic, the so-called Deutsches Reinheitsgebot, a German beer purity law, regulated the beer production for centuries. The law was introduced in 1516 and requires the brewers to use only three ingredients in the brewing process – hops, water and malt. Because of this law, the production of beer in these countries was dominated by lager beers, which rooted deeply into customers’ taste.

Having in mind that Polish consumers began consuming larger amounts of beer only 10 or 15 years ago (almost 200 pints every year), the traditional lager beers have become less and less attractive in the recent years, as consumers started looking for new kinds of beer, searching for new flavors.

“Years of investment in education about the beer culture have borne fruit not only in an exquisite group of beer experts, but also in a large group of beer enthusiasts. Today, the customer expects something more, he demands novelty, and there’s a lot of room on the market for novelty. 2014 shall therefore be a year of new products and flavors,” said Danuta Gut, the office director of UBIEP, in a conversation with Newseria Biznes news agency in early April.

“This market in Poland is changing  more and more – we’re moving away from strong beers towards flavored, regional or craft beers,” said Bławat in turn.

Source - Polish Press Agency, Economic Service

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Published by: Justyna Kania
Author: Public Relations Office
Last change: 23.05.2014
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