The consumption of locally made beer in Belgium slid by 1.6% in 2017, compared to the previous year, but exports of Belgian brews soared by a whopping 8.7%, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Federation of Belgian Brewers. Exports amounted to 15.81million hectolitres, representing 70% of production and double the amount sold in Belgium, which was just under 7.57 million hectolitres.
The Federation has two main explanations for the difficulties on the local market: the complicated situation in the hotels-restaurants-bars sector and a shift in consumption from pils beers to special brews.
The sector also confirmed the gains made by non-alcoholic beers and those with low (under 3.5%) alcohol content, which now represent 5% of national consumption. Non-alcoholic beers occupy 3% of the market, doubling their share in just one year. This segment of the sector now has a “market share that is not negligeable”, stressed Federation President Jean-Louis Van de Perre.
Beer exports have kept going up, growing by 8.7% between 2016 and 2017. The highest increase – just under 20% – was in sales to the United States, which has now become the second largest market for Belgian beer, slightly ahead of the Netherlands (2.65 million as against 2.63 million hectolitres).
France remains solidly in first place, importing 4.23 million hectolitres in 2017, an increase of 4.4% on the previous year.
Belgium had 261 breweries last year, up from 224 in 2016, of which about 70 were members of the federation.