Greek local breweries looking to secure competitive edge

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The so-called hot market of home consumption has drawn the attention of Greek breweries as the cold market (restaurants and hotels) is expected to shrink even further with the value-added tax increase that is set to come into force on September 1.

Even though the sale of beers at supermarkets and restaurants is already burdened by a 23 percent VAT, breweries are expecting to see sales drop in the cold market as the overall cost of going out increases and more and more people opt for eating in or entertaining at home.

Market experts expect the number of beer labels to become significantly restricted to two or three brands at restaurants, though breweries are banking on rising sales at the biggest distribution channel, supermarkets, and are therefore increasing the number of labels, mostly imports, they distribute through them. The next few months are also expected to see an increase in local beers, brews from lesser-known areas and ales from small breweries.

Meanwhile, in order to keep the cost to the consumer as low as possible, breweries are following a policy by which prices will only see a slight increase, despite the fact that the cost for producers has increased exponentially in terms of their primary supply. Two large companies active in Greece have also launched competitions to entice consumers by offering prizes in the form of cash or household goods.

The changes, along with more to come later, have already had an impact on market share in Greece, with Athenian Brewery continuing to dominate the market with a 68 percent share.

Mythos comes next with 15 percent, giving the company second place, thanks mainly to a vigorous publicity campaign for Kaiser beer.

In third place is Macedonian-Thrace Brewery with almost 6 percent of the market share, a development that is mostly due to the fact that its Vergina brand has risen in popularity and can now be found on most major supermarket shelves.

Fix, a beer that has made a phenomenal comeback in the past two years, has helped boost the market share of Olympic Brewery to just above 4 percent, while the remaining market share belongs to other labels.

According to data, in the first half of 2011 beer sales at grocery stores dropped by 12 percent, while the entire sector — including sales in the cold market — is estimated to have shrunk by 15 percent in comparison to last year.

A heat wave in July, coupled with increased tourist traffic in the country, however, have helped put a smile back on the faces of Greek breweries, which have seen a revival in their sales.

Though the exact numbers are not expected to be published until late autumn, experts expect the beer market to do well out of the crisis as beer is much cheaper than other alcoholic beverages overall.

Breweries are also resting their hopes on this assumption, launching new products and promotional campaigns.