Germans are consuming less and less beer, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) reporting a further drop in beer sales for the second consecutive year since the pandemic began.
According to Destatis, German beer sales dropped 187.7 million liters in 2021 compared to 2020. This is a 2.2% reduction in the country’s beer sales.
The downward trend in beer consumption is carrying on from the year before when German beer sales dropped 5.5% in 2020 compared to 2019.
Destatis notes that these figures do not include non-alcoholic beers, malt beverages or beer imported from countries outside the European Union (EU).
The COVID-19 impact is one reason for the reduction in beer sales. The closure of restaurants and cancellation of events was partly the cause for this reduction. Destatis data shows the pandemic led to reductions in beer sales particularly in January (-27%) and February (-19.1%).
Declining beer consumption in Germany
However, the trend in declining beer consumption in Germany is not a new one. Analysis of beer sales over the year shows a steady drop in beer sales in recent years.
As Movendi International previously reported, since the peak of 1.97 billion hectolitres of beer brewed in 2013, production has fallen almost every year, by more than 8% overall by 2021.
According to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in the mid-1970s the average consumption of beer per person, per year was about 150 liters. This dropped down to 144.9 liters by 1991. By 2021, the average German consumes about 101 liters of beer per year. This is about a one-third reduction since the 1970s.
Why are Germans reducing beer consumption?
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had an impact on beer sales for the past couple of years, there are other reasons for the long-term trend in beer sales reduction in Germany.
- The growing interest in the alcohol-free way of life.
- Increased awareness about health and the negative effects of alcohol, including beer, on health.
- Alcohol policy solutions such as better driving under the influence of alcohol laws.
As Movendi International has reported previously, there is rising interest in the alcohol-free way of life in Germany. It is estimated that one in 15 beers sold in Germany is alcohol-free. German people are becoming more aware of alcohol’s harms and making conscious choices to be healthier.
There are new businesses catering to the growing alcohol-free and sober curious young Germans popping up like the first-ever alcohol-free kiosk or “sober Späti”, in Kreuzberg, Berlin.
Alcohol harm and alcohol policies in Germany
While decreasing beer consumption due to German people’s personal choices is a positive trend more needs to be done in terms of policy solutions to tackle the German alcohol problem.
As reported in a study released by the German Central Office for Addiction Issues, 74,000 people die every year due to alcohol in Germany. The direct and indirect costs of alcohol-attributable diseases amount to €57 billion every year.
The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the German alcohol problem. The Nuremberg Clinic surveyed over 3000 adults on their alcohol consumption and found that 35.5% of survey respondents reported consuming more or much more alcohol than before the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, under-funded addiction counseling centers can not keep up with the rising demand for services.
Despite the massive harm caused by alcohol to people and communities in Germany, the alcohol lobby continues to influence policies for the benefit of Big Alcohol at the cost of people. This is demonstrated by the fact that the German government was pushing for a beer tax reduction for a whole year in 2021.
In March last year the German parliamentary health committee held a hearing to discuss Germany’s alcohol policy.
The committee concluded, that there are evidence-based, cost-effective policy solutions available to reduce and prevent alcohol harm in Germany. What is lacking is political will in Germany and the EU to advance action to solve these problems.
The coalition government formed late last year stated its commitment to improving alcohol policy solutions in Germany. The coalition agreement (2021-2025) made three commitments to tackle the German alcohol problem.
- The government commits itself to improve alcohol and tobacco prevention efforts, especially for children, youth, and pregnant women.
- The government commits itself to strengthening the regulations for alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis marketing.
- And the government commits itself to measure the regulations by the standards of the newest scientific insights and to apply those insights to public health protections.