BEER MARKET SHRINKS DESPITE THE WORLD SOCCER CUP
2002 was one of the most interesting years for the Bulgarian breweries. This is mostly due to the growing competition and the invasion of new players on the market, commented Dimitar Alexiev, Zagorka AD Executive Director. His company is the leader in terms of beer sales in 2002. The beer consumption in 2002 fell by 8% as compared to 2001, the Union of Breweries announced. Nearly 4 million hectolitres of beer were sold last year (annual consumption of 50 litres per capita). 300,000 hectolitres more were consumed in 2001.Peter Paunkov, Chief Secretary of the Union of Breweries, pointed several reasons for the smaller sales of beer in 2002. First among them is the lower solvency of the population. However, this problem will hardly be solved in the near future. The bad summer weather surprised unpleasantly the breweries, too. The traditionally best season for beer trade was stronlgy affected by the frequent raining and the relatively low temperatures. Even the world soccer cup could not compensate the whims of the weather. The increased excises in early 2002 had a smaller effect on the consumption. As a consequence, beer price went up, but that was a temporary effect because many of the breweries reduced the prices of their products.In 2002 the beer market remained dynamic which led to some changes in the rankings. The long-time leader in the branch - the Belgian Interbrew (owner of Kamenitza, Astika, Plevensko Pivo, and Burgasko Pivo) ceded the leading position to the Greece-registered Brewinvest. In its portfolio, the Greek company (which is property of the Dutch Heineken H.V. and Coca-Cola HBC) holds the brands of Zagorka, Amstel, Ariana, Stolichno Pivo, and Gold. In 2002, Brewinvest controlled 26.1% of the beer market, while Interbrew managed to keep just 23 per cent. The owner of Kamenitza registered a 32.5% decline in its sales and lost the leading position as well as a 10% share of the market. Interbrew started to step back in 2000. The Belgian group then sold 300,000 hectolitres of beer less than it did a year earlier. As a result, its market share shrank from 42.3% in 1999 to 33.9 per cent. The new leader in turn progressed slowly, but decisively. The breweries in the Brewinvest group registered a 2.3% sales growth. Still, that growth proved sufficient for the leading position. Dimitar Alexiev, Executive Director of Zagorka AD, is looking optimistically towards his company's ranking in 2003. He counts on the fact that Zagorka AD became the official distributor of Heineken products - Murphey's Irish Stout and Murphey's Irish Red. Third in the ranking is Bulbrew which includes Varnensko Pivo and Ledenika. After registering a remarkable growth in 2001, the two brands increased their sales by 9% in 2002. 753,000 hectolitres of them were consumed for the whole year. That's how the group conquered a 19.1% market share.Another candidate for a leading position appeared in the beer branch last year. That's the Danish Carlsberg Breweries company. It acquired the majority stakes in Shumensko Pivo (59.4% of the shares) in June 2002 and Pirinsko Pivo (94.5%) in October. The Blagoevgrad-based brewery has been growing remarkably in the last four years. From 1999 till 2002 Pirinsko Pivo has raised its beer sales from 4.5 to 12 per cent. Sales have grown from 173,000 to 473.5,000 hectolitres. The growth is mostly due to the advertising and promotion initiatives.The other brewery in the portfolio of Carlsberg Breweries cannot boast of the same excellent results, however. Shumensko Pivo controls a twice smaller share of the market compared to the Blagoevgrad-based beer producer. Last year its sales have decreased. The Danish company will invest some USD20-30MN in the two breweries in the next few years. Nils Andersen, Carlsberg Breweries Executive Director, intends to use the money for building new bottling lines for Shumensko Pivo. Another part of the resources will be invested in equipment for Pirinsko Pivo.The Veliko Tirnovo-based Bolyarka brewery registered stable, although modest, performance on the market. It sold 9.4% of the beer in 2002. The market positions depend only on the trade policy and the good quality and packing, says Anton Nenov, Executive Director of the company. Bulgaria has been among the leading beer consumers in the world for a long time. That's why world giants such as Carlsberg and Brewinvest came to the country. In 1990 Bulgaria occupied a leading position on the European beer market. 70 litres of beer were consumed per capita that year (108 standard bottles). In the years that followed, however, sales went down. 1997 was the worst for the Bulgarian breweries - only 3 million hectolitres of beer were sold then.Bulgaria started producing beer in 1881, when the first brewery - Kamenitza, was opened in Plovdiv. Now there are 13 producers in the sector.