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Summer Sales Surge: How Beer Titans Weather the Storm for a Shimmering 2024

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Lauren Miller

April 6, 2024 - 06:19 am

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Hope Springs Eternal for Beer Giants as Summer Events Promise Sales Spike

Brewers Looking Forward to a Sunny Season

The Anticipated Comeback After a Bleak Year

In the aftermath of what many termed a "brutal" year for the beer industry in 2023, the world's leading beer manufacturers are looking towards the warm seasons, craving a resurgence in sales fostered by summer sunshine and the excitement of major sporting phenomena. A marked change from the previous summer's drizzle that led beer lovers to shun outdoor pub gardens, this year holds the promise of rejuvenation for industry titans such as Heineken NV, Carlsberg AS, and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the brewer behind the world-renowned Budweiser brand.

Experts postulate that beneficial weather timed perfectly with the Euro 2024 football tournament on the horizon for June and July could catalyze a considerable upturn in beer consumption. Observers are drawing attention to the significance of major European football championships as pivotal moments that fuel beer sales across Europe – a trend particularly pronounced in some of the continent's most populous and beer-cherishing nations like the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany.

The Forecasted Beer Boom with Euro 2024

Duncan Fox, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, pointed out that as these powerhouses progress through the tournament rounds—a likelihood supported by betting odds which currently position countries including England at the vanguard—brewers are likely to witness an escalation in beer volumes. This spike is supported by data from Statista, revealing that countries like Germany, the UK, and Spain are not only football powerhouses but also among the top ten beer-consuming countries globally.

Laurence Whyatt, an analyst at Barclays, conjured the ideal scenario for the brewing industry – a picturesque summer with England battling against Italy or France in the finals. Such a picture-perfect backdrop, according to Whyatt, would be exceedingly advantageous for the industry.

A Sunnier 2024 for Beer Industries

The projection for this year is a stark contrast to the trials of the preceding summer, with beers going untapped as prior unfavorable weather deterred pub-goers. The incumbent CEO of Heineken, Dolf van den Brink, did not mince words when recalling the past summer, denouncing it as exceptionally "brutal" due to the heavy rains that prevailed across Europe in the peak months of July and August, deterring people from partaking in outdoor drinking. Their fortunes may be steering to a more favorable wind, fortified by predictions from the UK's Met Office, which anticipate a warmer 2024 compared to the soggy bygones.

Renowned bar groups, including the likes of JD Wetherspoon Plc, are also brewing optimism, eagerly waiting for the summer when draught sales traditionally observe an uptick. Tim Martin, the chairman of JD Wetherspoon, conveyed through a text message his "high hopes for an Irish summer." In his vision, sales of Guinness, primarily known for its appeal to older male demographics but now gaining popularity among the youth, would surge. Specifically, for JD Wetherspoons, the lift from major football events is a tad muted since the chain's focus isn't primarily on sports and only showcases prominent matches.

Challenges Persist for Spirit Makers

The outlook, however, is less sunny for producers of spirits like cognac, vodka, and aperitifs. Whyatt emphasized to Bloomberg News the struggles that European spirit manufacturers have faced in retaining their pandemic peaks, especially in the American market where consumer spending thrived thanks to stimulus checks and lockdown-imposed consumption. The exposure of spirit makers to the American market is notably higher than their beer-producing counterparts.

The pandemic had sparked expectations that the skills in home cocktail mixing would persist post-lockdown. The data from the past year, however, paints a different picture with the trends indicating that the burst in growth witnessed during the pandemic has dissipated.

Spirited Struggles in a Changing US Market

2023 posed a formidable challenge for high-end spirit brands vying for a place in US households as they grappled with economic sluggishness—a trend that may linger into 2024. Beer, conversely, seems to have retained its charm as an "everyday purchase," a positioning that remains attractive to consumers reigning in their spending habits. According to Duncan Fox of Bloomberg Intelligence, beer's resilience rests on its daily staple status, which resonates well with budget-conscious buyers.

The spirits sector is also faced with the predicament of excess inventory, as retailers and wholesalers had amped up stock during the pandemic. Beer managed to escape this plight owing to its relatively shorter shelf-life, as per insights shared by Morgan Stanley analyst Sarah Simon.

Yet, it is not all gloomy for cocktail enthusiasts. The UK grocery giant J Sainsbury Plc has anticipated that the popularity of rum and tequila-based drinks will ascend. The grocery chain also foresees a shift in consumer preference towards variations of the Spritz, expanding beyond the much-loved Aperol Spritz. Beer, despite its prospects for a sunny summer, remains vulnerable to the impacts of inflation and consumer downtrading, forcing brewers to hike prices to sustain revenue growth as patrons curtail their drinking volumes.

The Rising Tensions for Spirits in China

Furthermore, spirit makers are confronting increasing difficulties in China. A robust celebration during the Lunar New Year might have provided temporary relief, but dwindling consumer confidence, a decreasing youth population that is gradually distancing itself from nightclub culture, and looming tariff threats on the cognac sector remain formidable challenges. Brands such as Remy Cointreau SA, renowned for Remy Martin cognac, and Pernod Ricard SA, the producers of Martell, may be particularly impeded by these hurdles, as the difficulties they face appear to be deeply rooted structural issues within the Chinese market.

Yet, there's a glimmer of hope for American consumers, as Whyatt's opinion skews towards optimism, contrary to his perspective on the Chinese market where concerns seem robustly entrenched.

In conclusion, as with the natural seasons, the economic landscape for beer and spirits producers is ever-changing and unpredictable. The forthcoming summer, adorned with much-anticipated sports festivities, could spell a rejuvenation for beer brewers in contrast to the stormy and dampened summer of 2023. While beer companies brace for improved weather and high-spirited competition to boost their sales, spirit manufacturers remain cautious, evaluating strategic responses to a multitude of persistent challenges.

As industry experts continue to analyze trends and forecast outcomes, one thing remains certain – the pulse of consumer preferences and the climate, both economic and meteorological, will invariably shape the ebbs and flows of the beverage sector.

For more detailed information and insights on the shifting tides within the beer and spirits industry, click here to read the full Bloomberg article.