Germany’s hottest summer in a century could not overcome changing demographics and a new bottle deposit law as beer sales fell for the fourth straight year in 2003. Beer production fell 2.1% from 2002, the eighth decline in the past decade.
German brewers produced 105.5 hecoliters in 2003. A hecoliter is 26.4 U.S. gallons, or about 11.7 cases of beer.
German beer production has been declining steadily since the mid-1990s, when breweries produced more than 115 million hectoliters a year. Germans still rank third in the world in per capita beer consumption, behind those in the Czech Republic and Ireland.
Brewers have said changing demographics are partly to blame for the drop in demand as fewer younger people in the German population means fewer beer drinkers. They also blame the slide on the fact that drinkers must pay a 25 cent deposit for each throwaway can, a rule that came into effect in January 2003 to promote recycling. The effect of the law has been to virtually eliminate canned beer on the German market.
More than 80% of Germany’s 5,000 brands of beer are now sold in reusable containers, with glass and plastic bottles replacing tins.
The production figures included a 9.1% increase in beer exports last year to 12.3 million hectoliters.