COMPETITION FOR THE BREWERIES' CUP
As the summer - the hottest season for beer sales - is drawing near, local breweries' strongest wish is for fair weather. In 2002 the branch was hit hard by the rainy summer months, which lessened the customers' demand for beer. But this year the heat began early - in the very first days of May.In the first four months of 2003 Bulgarians drank more tham 755,000 hectolitres of beer. Almost the same amount of beer was sold during the same period of 2002. But while the breweries Zagorka AD, Kamenitza AD, and Bolyarka AD have registered growth, the other beer manufacturers have relapsed in terms of sales. Thus, Brewinvest, owned by the Dutch Heineken H.B. and Coca-Cola HBC, is again the leader on the Bulgarian beer market. The Cyprus-registered brewery controls the brands Zagorka, Ariana, Stolichno, Amstel, and Gold. According to the statistics of the Union of Brewers, the company sold 263,500 hectolitres of beer in the first four months of the year, which means that it holds 35% of the domestic beer market. In April alone its customers drank 128,380 hectolitres. The major competitor of Brewinvest - Belgium's Interbrew - produces beer of the Kamenitza, Astika, Plevensko Pivo, and Bourgasko Pivo brands. The Belgians sold a little over 247,000 hectolitres of beer and hold 33% of the domestic market.The Danish company Carlsberg Breweries (which purchased Pirinsko Pivo and Shoumensko Pivo in 2002) ranks third. The Blagoevgrad-based enterprise sold 100,500 hectolitres in the last four months (13.3% of the domestic beer market). Unlike the upward sales trend, registered by Pirinsko Pivo in the last three years, the other brewery - Shoumensko Pivo - still helds its modest 4.64% share of the domestic beer market. However, it is being entirely renewed at present, which indicates that Carlsberg also intends to compete for the leadership in the branch. The Danish project to invest about EUR20MN.The brewery in Veliko Tirnovo, which produces beer of the Bolyarka brand, is also among the excellent performers, accounting for 11.26% of the beer sales. The dynamic development of the brewery, owned by the Bulgarian Melinvest Holding, is due to the EUR30MN, invested in it over the last five years. The Varna-based Bulbrew with its brands Ledenika, MM, and Varnensko Pivo, has not yet announced its results. According to its representatives, however, the brewery will aim to gain at least 28% of the market this year and will set aside BGN12MN for realizing its plans.The Chief Secretary of the Union of Brewers Peter Paunkov believes it is still too early to draw general conclusions about the tendencies in the beer sales as the summer has not even come yet. Anyway, Brewinvest and Interbrew will retain the first two positions according to him. At the same time Mr. Paunkov points out that the influence of some external factors renders this market difficult for forecasting, and that at least four of the players on it target the first positions. It is interesting that all breweries have reorientated to production of beer in plastic bottles. 1.5-litre and 2-litre bottles are offered at present, but for the convenience of customers 0.5-litre bottles will be available soon. Bolyarka will be the first to enter this niche.The relative share of beer on tap has considerably increased over the last year. New trade marks appeared, too. Kamenitsa, for example, launched in the winter of 2003 Kamenitza Extra and Kamenitza Strong. Lovers of stout beer are also increasing in number, which means that the winter months will no longer be an off season for the beer industry. But variety costs quite a lot of money in Bulgaria. USD120MN has been invested in beer production as a whole over the last five years.The competition for market shares created a strange regularity. It turned out that most of those employed in the branch (3,960 people in 2002) are in fact in the beer trade, not in its production. Wages in that sector are almost double than the payment which those employed in other branches of the food and drinks industry get. The average annual salary in the beer branch is BGN4,545 per capita, as compared to BGN2,450 per capita in the food industry.