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Swiss lose their thirst

Beer consumption in Switzerland is falling Keystone Archive

The Swiss beverage market took a nosedive last year due to miserable weather and a lack of consumer confidence.

Figures just released by Switzerland’s largest independent brewer, Eichhof of Lucerne, show that a hard winter and rainy spring led to a significant decrease in consumption until the middle of last year.

Despite generally fair midsummer weather, Eichhof said it was impossible to make up the loss by the end of its fiscal year on September 30.

In its annual report, Eichhof said the terror attack in the United States in September, coupled with “dramatic events” in Switzerland — including the grounding of Swissair — led to a “veritable collapse” of beverage consumption.

Tourism affected

The hotel and restaurant trade, particularly in places depending on tourism, was especially hard hit by these developments, the reported noted.

Volumes in the retail trade were largely maintained by extensive price promotions, it commented.

Consumption of beer per capita declined once again in Eichhof’s business year, standing at 57.2 litres, down considerably from the 69.4 litres consumed per head in 1992.

At 4.1 million hectolitres, beer consumption in the whole of Switzerland was down by 1.3 per cent over the previous year’s result.

The figures show that Swiss branded beers suffered above-average volume declines, while international premium brands and discount brands made advances. Canned beer showed notable growth, particularly in retail.

Among non-alcoholic drinks, a distinct growth trend for natural mineral waters continued, the report noted.

Intensive marketing

Eichhof said international beers continued to achieve significant growth, unlike Swiss brand-name beers, mainly due to intensive marketing of foreign-controlled brewery groups engaged in license brewing and promotion of international premium brands in Switzerland.

In the hotel and restaurant trade, international premium brands are mainly preferred by the younger, trend-conscious beer consumers, the company’s reported commented.

Despite the decline of the overall Swiss market, Eichhof, which is the number three Swiss brewer, said that it had managed to increase its share in the beer market with sales rising by 5.8 per cent in the fiscal year to SFr108.3 million.

“We are really very proud to be the largest independent brewery in Switzerland. We are very successful with a number of specialised beers,” Eichhof president and CEO Werner Dubach told swissinfo.

“We are also very strong in international brands that we distribute exclusively in Switzerland. We now produce Miller beer in our brewery in Lucerne by licence, so we have very strong partners,” he added.

Asked about a possible takeover by an international beer giant, Dubach ruled that out for the time being.

“It’s difficult to determine what will happen in the long term but we want to remain independent and a public company,” he said.

Wines and spirits

Wine consumption in Switzerland during the business year fell slightly, standing at roughly 41 litres per head of the population.

Eichhof noted that cultivation of new vineyards and a continually growing diversity of products have considerably altered Swiss consumer behaviour.

While foreign vintages, particularly from the “New World” gained market share due to good quality and excellent value, domestic wines showed a decline, the report said.

Sales of spirits continued to grow, with vodka and mixed spirits becoming increasingly popular among younger consumers.

by Robert Brookes

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR