Irish beer exports fell 17 per cent last year to €254 million, according to a report produced by a brewers lobby group. The industry also wants taxpayer aid to help cover the cost of getting rid of out-of-date beer.
The Irish Beer Market Report by Drinks Ireland|Beer, the brewers’ lobbying arm within Ibec, also says beer sales in Ireland fell by 17.3 per cent last year. It says production of beer here declined by 14 per cent in 2020, while the proportion of beer sales in the embattled hospitality sector halved to about 30 per cent as the sector was repeatedly shut for the pandemic. The sector employs over 1,100 people here.
Drinks Ireland says that lockdowns, the Government’s mainstay tactic for controlling infection levels, have changed consumption patterns. Stout and ale drinkers, for example, prefer pub drinking to drinking at home and both have lost share – stout fell from 30 per cent to 25 per cent while ale’s share fell by a third to 4 per cent. Lager sales have largely held up, however.
On the exporting side, the US stood out as one of the markets most affected. Beer exports from the Republic to the US slumped by 45 per cent last year, says Drinks Ireland.
The sector has called for medium-term financial support for the sector. Drinks Ireland reiterated a long-running call for alcohol taxes to be lowered. However, it is also calling for financial aid to help with the costs of the “uplift, disposal and writing-off of out-of-date beer”.
“These measures are vital for the sector as it continues to endure lockdown measures in 2021,” said Peter Mosely, the managing director of the Porterhouse group and chairman of the lobbying body.
Beer’s share of overall drink sales fell last year from 45 per cent to 38 per cent, which Drinks Ireland attributed to the “staggering” fall in total sales.
With Diageo’s Guinness as one of the anchor brands of the Irish brewing sector, stout is responsible for close to two-thirds of all beer produced here. Lager is 28 per cent of production and ale 5.5 per cent.
“In 2019, prior to Covid-19, exports were valued at €305 million and we have seen a stream of new products coming onto the market from Irish brewers in recent years, including low and non-alcoholic variants,” said Mr Mosely.
“But, as a drink that’s mostly popular in our pubs, the sector has been profoundly impacted by Covid-19. And with hospitality businesses remaining closed, the challenges continue for our sector in 2021.”