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The number of Swiss brewers continues to rise despite declining beer consumption

A recent report shows a 2% drop in average Swiss beer consumption in 2016. Over the last 20 years it has dropped 4% to 54.9 litres per person.

On its own this would be no cause for alarm, however in 2016, the number of breweries in Switzerland rose by 21% to 753. Since 2011, the number is up 118% from 345. The website lists 794 breweries in Switzerland so it is possible that the number has grown further since government statistics were compiled.

And while falling average consumption has been offset by an increase in the number of beer drinkers it hasn’t been enough to lift Switzerland’s consumption of the amber liquid, which declined slightly to 4.6 million hectolitres.

This leaves more beer makers chasing the same volume of custom and means new brewers are forced to take market share from established ones.


Swiss craft beer © CÔTEWEST BREWING Sàrl - Click to enlarge

Swiss beer makers face a far less challenging market than wine producers. Wine consumption fell 4% in Switzerland in 2016. Over the last 20 years it has slumped 22%.

Alcohol consumption in Switzerland is down across the board. The total pure alcohol consumed per head has been in almost constant decline since 1997. Over the last 20 years it has dropped 14% from 9.2 litres to 7.9 litres of pure alcohol.

According to Euromonitor, the shift is driven by the ongoing influence of the health and wellness trend in Switzerland.

Beer Makers

Swiss craft brewer Keith Ziemba raises a glass of his brew Côte West – © CÔTEWEST BREWING Sàrl - Click to enlarge

Switzerland’s alcohol consumption is still high by world standards. Swiss per-capita consumption ranked fifteenth highest out of the 44 countries included in the OECD’s database in 2013, the latest comparable year. Switzerland was behind three of its neighbours though. Germany (10.9 litres), Austria (11.8 litres) and France (11.6 litres) were all ahead on annual consumption. Only Italy (7.4) was lower.

Could the craft beer industry in the US offer clues for the future the Swiss beer industry? Like Switzerland, the US market faces a rising number of brewers in a stagnant market. According to an article by Fortune, despite craft brands doubling their market share over the four years to reach 11%, many breweries were forced to close. 97 craft brewers shut down in 2016, up from 78 in 2015. And, a fair few of those not closing, were gobbled up by the big players. America’s big beer producers announced 19 deals in 2015.

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