February 2021

USA – Uber buys alcohol delivery app Drizly for up to USD 1.1 billion

A cool price for a piece of technology. Uber said on 2 February 2021 that it has acquired the alcohol delivery service Drizly, the latest purchase for the ride-hailing company, as it seeks to diversify its business after a pandemic-related decline in rides. Drizly’s sales boomed in 2020, growing more than 330 percent, it was reported, after many consumers stopped dining out and redirected their dollars towards take-aways and deliveries. Launched in Greater Boston in 2013, Drizly has become the leading on-demand alcohol delivery service in the US, and is currently available in 1,400 cities.

USA – Building digital relationships with alcohol consumers

What did Americans learn in 2020? Among other things, that you can legally order alcohol online and have it delivered to your doorstep. In a poll 44 percent of respondents said that 2020 was the first year they bought alcohol over the internet. In a recent webinar for the Brewers Association, IWSR analyst Brandy Rand said that, in 2020, the US caught up with China in terms of e-commerce alcohol sales. Per its forecast, in 2021, the US could overtake China to become the largest e-commerce alcohol market worldwide.

USA – The on-premise: will it recover and, if yes, how quickly?

The on-premise represented 17 percent of total alcohol sales in 2019. The closure of bars and restaurants during the pandemic saw its share drop to 9 percent in 2020. The IWRS, a research outfit, forecasts that it will only be back at 12.4 percent of US volume in 2024. Not only restaurateurs, craft brewers too will want to know the reasons why the on-premise (including taprooms) may not get back to its previous share over the next four years.

USA – Amid outcries San Francisco’s Anchor brewery goes for rebrand

Going for a whole new design can prove fatal, as the iconic heritage brewery, the San Francisco Potrero Hill Brewery, formerly known as the Anchor Brewery and revived by Fritz Maytag in 1965, is currently experiencing. Anchor celebrates its 125th anniversary in February 2021, which makes it America’s oldest craft brewery. For some reason, its new owner, Japan’s drinks company Sapporo (since 2017), decided to give the beloved, vintage-feeling labels for the porter, California lager, Liberty Ale and Anchor Steam beers a makeover – the first time in modern history.

Belgium – On-premise sales of beer drop 50 percent in 2020

What a shock: With bars and cafés being shut for almost six months in 2020, on-premise sales of beer fell 50 percent. The drop in beer consumption amounts to a staggering 20 percent, or a loss of about 1.4 million hl beer over 2019. The shift to the off-premise was minimal: only +2 percent over 2019.

The Netherlands – Heineken slips to a loss in 2020

The pandemic even brought Heineken to its knees. The world’s number two brewer reported a net loss of EUR 204 million (USD 248 million) for 2020, compared with a net profit of EUR 2.2 billion in 2019. Global beer sales dropped 8 percent organically to 222 million hl, the firm said on 10 February 2021.

Germany – Beer consumption hit record low in 2020

The country’s 1500 breweries sold 87 million hl beer in 2020 – a decline of 5.5 percent over 2019, the Federal Statistical Office reported on 1 February 2021. Although beer consumption has gone down for decades, last year’s drop was exacerbated by thousands of festivals, fairs and other big events being cancelled to ward off the pandemic. The closing of pubs and restaurants also led to less beer being drunk.

United Kingdom – Post-Brexit paperwork and extra costs hurt importers

The UK has now been out of the EU for an entire month. One scenario – miles-long queues at the Channel Tunnel and the port of Dover – has not materialised, but the ripple effects of Brexit have touched many consumers and businesses in the UK.

USA – Craft brewer Boulevard embroiled in sexual harassment claims

Kansas City’s iconic Boulevard brewery has been rocked by accusations of sexual harassment. Claims of harassment first surfaced in late January 2021 in a Reddit post. The fallout was swift. Boulevard’s long-time executive and president, Jeff Krum, resigned on 27 January, along with two other high-ranking employees. The following day, founder John McDonald, 67, temporarily took control of operations and vowed to fix things.

South Africa – Prohibition lifted again

President Cyril Ramaphosa has eased some restrictions imposed due to coronavirus, including lifting an unpopular ban on alcohol sales. The announcement came as Mr Ramaphosa hailed the arrival of the first shipment of vaccines – one million AstraZeneca doses – on 1 February 2021, the BBC reports. South Africa has had the most registered covid-19 infections and deaths on the continent.

Denmark – Carlsberg’s volumes down 3.6 percent in 2020

Carlsberg’s 2020 results were affected by the significant impact of the pandemic on the beer market in general, and the on-trade in particular. Volumes sales declined 3.6 percent to 130 million hl, of which 20 million hl were non-beer, the firm said on 5 February 2021. For the group, the on-trade channel accounts for around 25 percent (2019) of volumes. Exposure is at the same level in Western Europe, above average in Asia and very small in Eastern Europe. Across the group, on-premise volumes declined by more than 20 percent in 2020, mostly compensated for by higher off-premise sales.

United Kingdom – Diageo’s sales fall in six months to December 2020

The world’s major drinks company, Diageo, reported net sales of GBP 6.9 billion (USD 9.4 billion) in the six months to 31 December 2020, down 4.5 percent over the same period in 2019. According to Diageo, organic growth of 1 percent during the first half was offset by “unfavourable exchange rates”. The company said that operating profit for the six-month period dropped 8.3 percent to GBP 2.2 billion (USD 3 billion).

Europe – The plight of the hospitality industry

As coronavirus cases spiral and highly contagious variants spread, European governments have prolonged lockdown measures. Germany’s lockdown was extended until 14 February 2021, with new rules also making it mandatory to wear medical masks in shops and on public transport. Restaurants will remain closed, except for takeaway services. 2021 will be a very, very difficult year for hoteliers and retaurateurs, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) said. It expects that even if vaccination moves quickly, it will take until the third quarter of 2021 for domestic tourism to recover, on which the hospitality sector heavily depends.

United Kingdom – When will pubs reopen?

Pubs could be shut for months to come, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a third national shutdown on 6 January 2021. Mr Johnson did not offer a concrete end date, instead saying that the prospect of Britain’s mass vaccination programme could enable restrictions to be progressively eased from mid-February.

United Kingdom – Thousands of bars and pubs closed in 2020

Over the course of three nationwide lockdowns and various coronavirus restrictions, Britain lost around 6,000 pubs and licensed premises in 2020. This is nearly three times as many as in 2019, according to the Market Recovery Monitor by consultants CGA and business advisory firm AlixPartners. In fact, a total of 9,930 sites were shuttered, but with just under 4,000 opening for the first time, the loss was only 5,975, or 5 percent of the total, the report, released on 22 January 2021, said.

South Africa – New prohibition pushes craft brewers to the brink

The third national lockdown could devastate the craft brewing industry. But even the Big Brewers are not immune: AB-InBev-owned SAB laid off 550 temporary workers, due to the associated ban on the sale of alcohol, media reported on 24 January 2021. SAB also abandoned investments to the order of USD 165 million for 2021. Heineken South Africa will let go 70 of its 1,000 employees because of continued market pressure, which make it necessary to restructure operations. Last year already, Heineken cancelled plans to build a new brewery in South Africa.

Russia – Beer market proved resilient despite covid-19

Brewer Anadolu Efes said that the Russian beer industry showed improvement during 2020, as the covid-19 related restrictions were relatively light during the summer months. But on the pricing side, competition was very high throughout the past year, which actually boosted volume growth. Observers suspect that domestic beer consumption rose in 2020 over 2019 because fewer Russians could travel abroad as a result of the pandemic.

USA – Brewers Association may have to amend its statutes again

When Boston Beer reports its fourth-quarter results on 17 February 2021, in all likelihood, it will no longer be officially classified as a craft brewer. That is because the brewer of Samuel Adams and Dogfish Head will have sold more than 6 million barrels of product in 2020.

Japan – Beer market down 9 percent in 2020

Brewer Kirin is estimated to have ranked top in sales of beer and beer-like drinks in 2020, overtaking rival Asahi for the first time in eleven years, the website mainichi.jp reports. Japan’s beer market, however, continued its decades-long overall decline, despite the government reducing the liquor tax on beer in October.

Japan – Kirin’s probe into Myanmar beer venture “inconclusive”

Kirin should publish its investigation report on the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (MEHL) and swiftly cut ties with the company, Human Rights Watch, an NGO, said in January. On 7 January 2021, Kirin had announced the conclusion of an investigation by Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory, but declined to release the report for confidentiality reasons. The investigation had tried to determine where MEHL’s share of profits from Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery actually went.

Japan – Sapporo’s collab beer will go on sale despite typo on cans

Jointly developed by Sapporo and Family Mart, one of Japan’s largest chains of convenience stores, the beer called Kaitakushi Bakushu Shitate, or “Kaitakushi Beer Tailored” and named after the country’s first brewery, was to hit shelves in January 2021. However, the release of the limited-edition beer was initially cancelled due to the misspelling of the word “Lager” on the label. Instead of “Lager” the cans had “Lagar” printed on them.

Thailand – ThaiBev eyes USD 2 billion IPO of regional beer assets

Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) has revived plans to seek a stock market listing in Singapore in the first half of 2021 for its regional beer assets, including the brewer of Chang beer, in Thailand, and Sabeco, in Vietnam. The initial public offering (IPO) could raise about USD 2 billion, Reuters reports.

Vietnam – Beer market could take years to recover

After decades of beer consumption only going up, it suddenly came to a screeching halt in 2020, after the Vietnamese government introduced Decree 100, its drastic anti-drunk driving laws in January. And then came covid-19. The clampdown on drunk driving hit the brewing industry harder than covid-19. The government’s handling of the pandemic has been largely successful – the country had just over 1,500 cases and 35 deaths by January 2021. But with over 80 percent of beer consumption in the on-trade channel, the impact on beer demand by Decree 100 was immediate and significant. Beer production in 2020 dropped by an estimated 14 percent over 2019, the Vietnam Beer Alcohol and Beverage Association (VBA) said in January.

Korea – On-premise suffers as punters flog to the supermarkets

Before covid-19, South Korea was one of the leading markets for booze. Beer and soju were consumed the most. What is more, one in two beers was sold in bars and restaurants. As the pandemic has prevented people from enjoying get-togethers and socialising, the beer market is undergoing a dramatic change. Volume sales of beer for home consumption now exceed that of beer selling at bars and restaurants. The question is: will this shift be temporary or permanent? According to a survey conducted in early 2020, around 78 percent of consumers stated that they prefer to drink beer at home. That does not bode well for on-premise consumption in the long run, does it?