Closed countries and bars increased demand for imported beer

Sales of imported beer in retail have grown over the past year by more than 30%. Brewers attribute this to the fact that the middle class could not travel abroad, as before, and local bars were temporarily closed.


A sharp increase in demand for imported beer in stores over the past year is evidenced by the data of the audit of retail trade by the research company NielsenIQ. Retail sales of beer imported into Russia from non-CIS countries increased by 31.4% in physical terms from March 2020 to February 2021. NielsenIQ does not disclose absolute values. Retail audit results take into account sales not only in modern retail and specialty stores, but also in traditional sales channels such as markets. For comparison: sales of local Russian brands over the same period, according to NielsenIQ estimates, grew by only 2.9%, and licensed beer, that is, foreign brands that are produced under license at the facilities of domestic breweries, by only 1.5 %. The demand for imported beer is growing, even though its cost is twice the average price in the category, according to NielsenIQ. On average, 1 liter of beer cost 98 rubles in retail, while the average price of an imported brand was 181 rubles, licensed - 111 rubles, Russian - 87 rubles.

Consumers prefer specialty

The demand towards imported beer and brands of local producers has been shifting over the past few years, says Pavel Funtikov, head of the alcohol clients group at NielsenIQ. According to him, this is due to the fact that consumers, on the one hand, have a demand for niche, local products that are perceived as "better", and on the other hand, the fact that there are more such brands on the shelf. Consumer tastes are changing, and instead of traditional malt lagers, they prefer the so-called specialty, beer with various flavors and craft beer, including imported varieties, Vorobyov admits.

Pricing policy of foreign producers

Another factor in the growth in demand for imported beer in 2020 could be the pricing policy of foreign producers. Because of the lockdown in Europe, local brewers found themselves in difficult conditions: restaurants and bars were closed, there were no tourists, so they “were happy with any sales and offered more favorable conditions for export prices,” notes a source in the brewing industry for RBC. In 2020, expensive imports have become more accessible due to the flexible pricing policy of manufacturers, confirms Oraz Durdyev, a representative of AB InBev Efes.

Large producers and importers confirm the trend

hein beer

The growth in demand for beer produced abroad is confirmed by trade chains, as well as large producers and importers. At Auchan, as its press service specified, this trend is reflected in the range of Moscow hypermarkets: Beer boutiques with an assortment of more than 200 import items began to appear in them since last year. At the end of 2020, only imported Heineken showed an 80% increase in volumes compared to 2019, says Aleksey Vorobyov, a representative of the Russian office of the brewing company. At Baltika, according to its representative Nadezhda Ovsyannikova, in the first quarter of 2021 sales of Grimbergen beer imported from Belgium increased by 21% compared to the first quarter of 2020.

Customs’ records

The increased import of beer last year was also recorded by the customs. According to its data, which take into account deliveries not only from non-CIS countries, but also from neighboring states, in 2020 Russia imported 48.2 million decaliters of malt beer, which is almost 21% more than a year earlier. However, in the first quarter of this year, the import of beer fell sharply - by 46%, to 5.3 million decaliters, compared to the same period in 2020. Last year, Germany was the leader in beer import: from this country 19.4 million decaliters of beer were imported to Russia (plus 29% compared to 2019), Mexico came in second, which almost doubled its supplies, to 5.2 mln dal. Among the European countries that are among the ten largest suppliers, the Czech Republic (plus 7%, up to 4.6 million decaliters), Lithuania (plus 43%, up to 3.9 million decaliters), Belgium (plus 7%, up to 2.7 million decaliters).

Brewed in Russia


The share of imported beer on the Russian market is still very small, only 5% of consumed beer is imported from abroad, the remaining 95% are domestic products, according to the Center for Research on Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets. In total, in 2020, according to Rosalkogolregulirovanie, 777.9 million decaliters of beer were produced in the country, which is 2% more than in 2019. More than two-thirds of Russian beer is produced by local breweries of three transnational players: the Dutch Heineken, Baltika (part of the Danish Carlsberg Group) and AB InBev Efes.

LAN-Moscow Team

Sources: RBC