10 February 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s beer industry is running into trouble as the country’s love affair with its national drink wanes.
On Thursday, La Derniere Heure blamed changing drink habits for the financial problems of breweries like Palm which has just made 42 of its 280 workers redundant.
Beer drinking by Belgians has slumped in recent years to an average of 96 litres per citizen, compared to 120 litres at the start of the 1990s.
“It’s mainly because of changing habits and road safety campaigns,” said Mr De Brabanter, spokesman for the Federation of Belgian Breweries.
“But there’s also competition from waters, lemonades and other trendy alcoholic drinks.”
He added: “We won’t be able to get Belgians to drink more and that’s not our aim.”
The managing director of Palm Breweries, Ludo Vermeir, said the Belgian slump came primarily from the fact that less beer is being sold in cafes and pubs.
“Every year, 1,200 to 1,500 cafes disappear, many of them popular cafes,” he said.
“People are also going to a cafe less during the week and the weekend consumption isn’t enough to compensate for that loss. Then there is the fact that wine has also become an important competitor.”
Belgians are also varying their social life which means less beer-drinking down at the pub.
Vermeir said anti-drink driving campaigns like BOB were also having a negative effect on the industry.
“We can’t of course attack those campaigns which have positive outcomes, but that doesn’t change the fact that they play a part in lowering consumption,” he said.
While the home market has slumped, there has been good news for Belgian brewers in export markets.
In the course of the last four decades, the amount of beer sold abroad has soared – from 7 percent of the total production in 1970 exports to 37 percent of total Belgian beer production in 2000.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news