BEER MARKET REMAINS FAITHFUL TO TRADITIONS
The first four months of the current year delighted beer producers in Bulgaria with an increased amount of sales. The trend has been going on for several years now, but this time the growth has been really remarkable - sales are up by 20 per cent. From January to April Bulgarian beer fans drank slightly more than 1 million hectolitres of beer. According to Dimitar Alexiev, Executive Director of the Zagorka brewery, the interest growth is both due to the nice weather and the improved quality of the beer. Despite the increased market, however, production capacity exceeds the country's beer consumption by almost 30 per cent.The growth of sales did not lead to rearrangement of the positions held by the producers. The leading place was once again occupied by the Cypriot Brewinvest group which holds a 35% share of the beer market and produces the brands Zagorka, Ariana, Gold, Amstel, and Stolichno Pivo. The first two of these brands still have the greatest number of fans. The second position is held by the Belgian Interbrew company which sold 309,000 hectolitres. Kamenitza, Astika, Bourgasko Pivo, and Plevensko Pivo provided the Belgian producers with a 30% share on the domestic beer market. The Bulgarian competitor in this branch which changed its name from Varnensko Pivo into Ledenika MM (following the merger of Ledenika and Varnensko Pivo) ranks third with a market share of 20-25 per cent. Carlsberg ranks fourth with 17% of the beer sales. The Danish group is the owner of two breweries, Pirinsko Pivo and Shoumensko Pivo, which sold 173,000 hectolitres of beer in the first four months of the year. In spite of the expectations that the Danes would aim at conquering the leading position, there are no such indications at present. Bolyarka continues its modest and yet permanent presence on the market, holding a 12% share.Now the golden season for breweries - the summer months - is drawing near. It is already clear that the competition will be held through advertising spots. Ledenika MM have earmarked some BGN2.5MN for ads, while Brewinvest and Interbrew have invested at least three times as much. The European Football Championship has also provided favourable opportunities for the beer game. On May 5 Zagorka launched the initiative called 8 million, 1flag, and Ledenika MM started a new game, in which T-shirts and some sports articles could be won. Kamenitza responded by a football clip that will begin to be broadcasted on TV within a few days. The football championship and the fair performance for the last four months give breweries assurance for a successful summer season, provided that the weather is fine. Rains and low temperatures in May have resulted in a decline in sales of some brands by about 30-50%, which is not negligible. Preferences for various beer packs have not changed since last year. In fact the opinion that Bulgarians stick to their habits affirms itself. Despite the wide variety of packs and brands on the domestic market, beer in glass bottles has remained the preferred one. Although beer in plastic bottles is cheaper and more convenient, it accounts for about 25-35% of all sales and its consumption is still behind that of beer in glass bottles. Broached beer remains a priority for open-air establishments, but nevertheless rates third in the total volume of sales, accounting for 10-12 per cent of the market. In Europe broached beer accounts for 80-90% of the entire market, but according to brewers this is a result of the economic situation in the respective country and the mentality of the population. Bulgarian brands definitely dominate in our country and the niche of imported beer is 5-6 per cent. Imported beer, however, accounts for less than 1% of sales on the domestic market. The export of Bulgarian beer does not exceed 1% either.