Marketing plays a key role in these difficult conditions. For the German consumer, the brand is more important than the price when purchasing beer, and currently roughly seven million people are interested in information about beer. Despite falling sales figures, advertising spending in the brewing industry has barely decreased, so that costs per hectoliter consumed have generally grown in the last 20 years. In terms of advertising distribution by channel in the media, leadership belongs to TV advertising.
Pilsner is the leading type of beer, with a market share of roughly 63 percent. In retail, the returnable bottle represents the most widespread packaging. Only 18 percent of the beer market volume in Germany apply to gastronomy, while in Austria the share amounts to a third and in Switzerland to 40 percent. The leading distribution channels for selling beer on the retail market are discounters and food retail stores.
The market share of imported beers has grown in the last ten years, but the domestic market is still shaped by local brewery companies. The Radeberger Group (also: Jever, DAB, Berliner Pilsener, Sternburg and others), belonging to the Oetker Group, the Belgian-Brasilian brewery group AB InBev (among others, Beck’s, Hasseröder and Löwenbräu) and Bitburger (including König Pilsener, Köstritzer, Licher and Wernesgrüner) are the leading brewery groups on the German market, based on sales figures. Oettinger, Krombacher and Bitburger represent the leading German beer brands, according to production numbers.
The mixed beer drink segment, such as Radler or Alsterwasser, grew significantly at the beginning of the millennium, but has been stagnating for several years. Drinks mixed from beer and lemonade, which were sold mainly in food retail stores, played the biggest role in this segment. The market leader in Germany is the Karlsberg brewery with its brand Mixery.
A trend which is occupying the brewing industry in recent years is craft beer. While the beer market in Germany and on the other side of the Atlantic is shrinking, the number of breweries is paradoxically growing, as more and more small and microbreweries appear. These attempt to separate their products from the mass by introducing unusual flavors. Generally craft beer breweries mean small, owner-managed companies which are committed to craft traditions (but not necessarily to the German Reinheitsgebot). In Germany, craft beer has so far become more popular in several smaller urban markets. The share of small breweries in the total beer production in Germany has not grown significantly in recent years.