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Global hop market

A local alternative to mass beer suggested by independent brewers has been successful and is now altering the global market. Beer is becoming more diversified, so transnational companies have to accept the new game rules and to switch focus to young and fast growing markets. All these processes increased the demand for aroma and bitter hop as well as their acreage expansion on two continents. However now there appeared a downward trend of alcohol consumption in the world, so even special sorts can soon turn to be sufficient. In this connection the dynamic American hop market is already facing some problems. EU hop producers have become more cautious, they are not racing to exceed the demand and look forward with more confidence, judging by the contract terms. 

Hop Market in Russia

Germany still dominates the Russian market, yet over the recent two years one has been able observe a continuous success of Czech hop suppliers. Their expansion and growing popularity of hops from the United States became the drivers of supplies growth in 2016 despite the preceding modest harvest crop in the EU, as well as the factor of relative stability in 2017. In this connection, in 2017, the ratio of the varieties continued to shift towards the aroma ones, and the supplies of Magnum hop and other alpha varieties were reduced. However, the import of bitter hop pellets is partially replaced by extracts, especially from the major beer manufacturers. Total volumes of alpha acid supplies, according to our estimation, decreased by approximately 5% and returned to the level of 2015. Barth Haas Group continues dominating the hop products market; HVG also increased its weight. At the same time, Morris Hanbury significantly reduced the supplies in 2017.

Global brewers: too much froth

Order a beer in Amsterdam and it is served with a big foamy head, something that can make drinkers feel they are the victim of the publican’s cost saving programme. Investors in Dutch brewer Heineken may feel the same way. At first read, its first-quarter results on Wednesday appeared sound. On a like-for-like basis, Heineken sold 5.5 per cent more beer than in the same quarter last year. Things were similar at rival SABMiller. On Tuesday, the London-listed brewer, revealed volume growth last quarter rose by 3 per cent.
Sounds great; but hold the backslapping. At Heineken, underlying revenues grew by only 3.6 per cent as its price and sales mix fell 2 per cent. At SABMiller, revenue per litre produced rose only 3 per cent. Much of this is attributable to pricing pressures in European economies with high unemployment. So to keep bottom line growth in double-digits, the only option is to continue ripping out costs – a strategy most brewers have employed with aplomb.
But costs can only be reduced so far before long-term effects crop up. Of particular concern is the potential effect on penetration into emerging markets if brewers attempt to subsidise their shaky western European business with a spendthrift attitude in fast-growing regions such as Africa, where costs are often higher because of poor infrastructure and the need to import machinery.
The large brewers trade at about 16 times their forward earnings, almost a 50 per cent premium to the S&P Euro 350 index. Clearly investors expect growth. But if revenues continue to underperform volumes, delivering on those expectations will be difficult. That could leave investors in the same position as Dutch drinkers; paying for a full glass but not quite receiving one.

21 Apr. 2011



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