The Swiss are developing a taste for foreign beers at the expense of local brands. In recent years, they have been downing fewer indigenous brews and opting instead for imports from the Netherlands and Denmark.
The Swiss Brewers Association is playing down the ongoing slump, which has seen the sales of beer produced by local market leader, Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann, fall by 20 per cent over the past six years.
The association's director, Konrad Studerus, said the decline was being offset by increasing sales of beers produced locally under licence.
"Thanks to foreign beers, we can develop the Swiss market because of the contracts and licences. This also means we can cut back on imports," he said.
But it is not just Swiss brewers who are seeing sales bottom out. The Dutch brewer, Heineken, reports that its overall sales have fallen by 20 per cent over the past five years.
Heineken brands left standing on the shelf include Amstel and Premium-Bier. In Switzerland, they are brewed under a licence in canton Graubünden.
For Feldschlösschen, which is now owned by the Danish brewer, Carlsburg, brands such as Cardinal, Gurten, Hürlimann, Löwenbrau, Bière Valaisanne and Warteck have all been affected by falling demand.
Studerus believes that the growing Swiss preference for foreign beers only partly explains the drop in sales. He said a more serious long-term danger comes from the fact that the Swiss and the Europeans in general are drinking less beer.
At the beginning of the 1990s, average Swiss beer consumption was 71 litres a year. That has now declined to 58,3 litres.
swissinfo with agencies
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