Lager beer maintains drawing power

Bayreuther beer in bar
© Bayreuther Hell

Lagers have been the reliable force behind beer sales for years. Between January and October 2020, sales surged by an impressive 25 percent as compared with the same period in 2019. But dark clouds hang over the export beer market, with sales continuing to decline. Yet the steepness of the decline has eased. Sales fell by nearly 4 percent between January and October 2020 as compared with the same period in 2019 (minus 9.9 percent).

The sales curve continued upward in 2020

The lager market was particularly successful in 2020. Data from the market research firm IRI showed that retail sales increased by nearly 25 percent (24.9 percent) to approximately 4 million hectoliters between January and October 2020 on a like-for-like basis. Breweries also rejoiced as revenue climbed nearly 26 percent in the same period.

Most lager is sold in beverage stores. These sales totaled over 1.7 million hectoliters (January through October 2020), marking a spectacular leap of 25 percent (revenue +26.6 percent) as compared with the same period in 2019. Hypermarkets were the next largest sales channel and produced a strong gain as well. According to IRI, they increased by 28.4 percent to a total of 1.4 million hectoliters (revenue +28 percent).

Tabellarische Übersicht Verkaufszahlen helles Bier 2020
Beverage retailers were the leading lager sales channel from January to October 2020, with a share of 28.4 percent. (Source: IRI)

While lager beer sales and revenue bubbled, IRI market researchers found that export beer sales somewhat dried up between January and October 2020. These dropped by 3.8 percent in comparison with the same period in 2019 to about 3.5 million hectoliters. Revenue stagnated at minus 0.1 percent with price adjustments.

Hypermarkets are the leading retail sales channel. Nonetheless, their export beer sales dipped by 2.5 percent between January and October 2020 as compared with the same period in 2019. Revenue rose by 1 percent as a result of a 3.8 percent price increase. Sales fell in nearly every sales channel. But they managed to rise in self-service beverage stores and C&C stores (by 2.3 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.) 

Wide range of lagers on sale

Retailers offer numerous lager and export beers regardless of the current market situation. Some breweries even offer multiple varieties in different bottles and sizes. Furthermore, new items are constantly being added to the lager category.

Bavarian lagers are popular across Germany

The innovation-driven Radeberger brands

Lagers have just become the second-largestsegment of the German beer market, just after pilsner and ahead of wheat beers. Their role in the Radeberger Group portfolio is expanding, too – thanks to above-average performance of the flip-top specialty Allgäuer Büble Bayrisch Hell.

“About 18 months ago, we successfully introduced another product into the lager beer growth segment that combines tradition with the Bavarian way of life under the motto: Oberdorfer Helles. Bayrisches Brauhandwerk,” said Birte Kleppien, a Radeberger Group spokeswoman.

Oberdorfer Helles is currently sold in 0.5-liter Euro bottles bearing a blue and white label, the Bavarian state colors. This specialty Bavarian beer will be sold in 0.33-liter Euro bottles starting at the end of February and then distributed across numerous regions of Germany. “Our marketing continues to consciously reduce our advertising with the label ‘Bavarian beer’ and social media activities,” Kleppien said.

Three new beers will be introduced in April in Northern Bavaria’s Franconian beer market: for the first time, Grüner Vollbier Hell will be sold as Grünerla in 0.33-liter Euro bottles, and the popular Zirndorfer Landbier will be sold as Zirni in 0.33-liter Euro bottles. The third new product will be a non-alcoholic Zirndorfer Landbier in 0.5-liter Euro bottles. Free samples will be offered to curious drinkers, and pallet-shroud displays will be utilized for the market launch in the non-alcoholic beer growth sector.

Lager or original – why not both?

Two beers capture the Bavarian spirit: wheat beer and lager. Differing tastes have led the Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan to brew two different lagers since May 2020: the original and the new Weihenstephaner Helle in Euro bottles.

Weihenstephaner Helles
© Weihenstephaner Helles

During a roughly 18-month development period, the brewery concocted a mild, easy-drinking beer. This new brew also comes with a new design, featuring a historic label refashioned with today’s beer lovers in mind. And with 4.8 percent alcohol by volume, this beer resides at the lower end of the lager spectrum. Moreover, the Hallertau aroma hop Saphir adds a subtle undertone to the beer (coupled with “velvety malt sweetness”).

The brewery easily could have sold the original beer in a new package. But Weihenstephan decided to take its time and develop a mild lager to suit the traditional Euro bottle shape. And they were rewarded for their hard work last November at the European Beer Star. The new Weihenstephaner lager was named the best in the European-Style Mild Lager – walking away with the gold medal.

Bayreuther Hell – honest, fresh and spicy

Bayreuther Hell achieves its unmistakable character from the delicate balance of the finest light barley malts and just a dash of hops. Its recipe has been passed down for generations and is executed with the Bavarian art of brewing. This traditional brewing specialty is defined by a fresh, spicy taste and its easy drinkability.

In addition to the classic 0.5-liter Euro bottle, the 0.33-liter Euro bottle sold in 20 bottle cases is popular and fuels sales growth. Consumers include regular customers who desire a small alternative at home in addition to the large bottle. What’s more, the beer is attracting a completely new target group: individuals who simply prefer smaller beer bottles, including many women. “We plan to use the new cult bottle for Bavarian lagers in order to energize the lager segment,” said CEO Hans-Joachim Leipold.

Prämiertes Urtyp Hell aus der Schlossbrauerei Autenried

The Urtyp Hell is the classic Schlossbrauerei Autenried beer. This specialty is known for its firm, snow-white head. Urtyp Hell is a malty, carefully crafted lager with just a hint of hops and carbonation. The award-winning beer only utilizes hop cones grown in Spalt and Hallertau, lending the brew a bittersweet aroma.

The classic beer has been sold in 0.33-liter bottles since October 2019. The brewer says the smaller bottles boost sales by reflecting the desires of today’s customers. After winning the World Beer Award 2020, a limited issue of special labels for the back of the Urtyp Hell 0.5-liter bottles was printed.

Depending on demands, the specialty is advertised on social media, the company’s home page, campaigns as well as placement in stores, online and print ads. Furthermore, the in-house newspaper Autenrieder aktuell containing in-depth stories about the brewery’s beers is also published biannually.

Autenrieder Helles Bier in Flaschen
© Autenrieder Helles & Urtyp Hell

Helles Original from Moos

Beer Arcobräu Moos in bottle
© Mooser Liesl by Acrobräu Gräfliches Brauhaus

“Quality” is the purpose of Acrobräu Gräfliches Brauhaus – each of their beers has earned a gold medal from the German Agricultural Society. And that includes the lagers. Over 500 years of experience and its brewing recipes produce an incomparable taste. They utilize a special brewing process developed for the Mooser Liesl using only natural hop cones.

Sales of Mooser Liesl generated a significant double-digit gain last year. “I imagine that we have already passed the major brands in the Top 10 ranking for lagers in 2020,” said Acrobräu Managing Director Holger Fichtel. Also, the lager comes in a surprising and innovative packaging: Mooser Liesl is the world’s first beer with an animated and talking beer label. First, scan the label with a smartphone app. Then, the Mooser Liesl comes to life and humorously recounts some things about itself.

Three lager specialties from Hofbräu München

Lager popularity comes down to three things – a color ranging from straw to golden, easy drinkability and a light taste. “The Hofbräuhaus Hell is a classic lager in a nostalgic design. It comes in a 0.5-liter brewer bottle and uses a label from the time of Germany’s economic miracle,” said Oliver Poeschel, the Sales Director of Hofbräu München. “The brewery has responded perfectly to the zeitgeist while remaining true to its own style.”

The bottom-fermented Hofbräu Original – a balanced lager – is the brewery’s top seller, with an assortment share of over 50 percent. It is sold to restaurants and taverns in 30- and 50-liter kegs. Consumers can buy cases of 20 0.5-liter bottles, 24 0.33-liter bottles or six-packs (0.5-liter).

Hofbräuhaus Hell simply glides down your throat. It is a soft brew with a pleasant hint of hops, has 5.1 percent alcohol by volume and is available all year-round. This specialty – a classic, malty lager sold in 0.5-liter Euro bottles and packed in retro-cases – complements the brewery’s line of beers. In May 2020, Hofbräuhaus Hell was also sold in 0.33-liter Bavarian craft bottles packed in white 20-bottle cases. Hofbräu Sommerzwickel joins the lager lineup from mid-April to the end of June.

Successful Andechser Hell-Bier from the holy monastery

Andechser Hell from Klosterbrauerei Andechs is a truly classic, full-bodied Bavarian beer produced in a time-consuming, multiple-mashing process. This beer is definitely a full-bodied brew, with a straw-like color that catches the eye and a scent of fresh hops that tingles the nose. Its head is stable and fine pored.

Moreover, this beer has a pure, cellar-fresh fragrance characterized by soft malty aromas interlaced with floral hoppy hints. As you drink the beer, its light body mixes smoothly with the brew’s soft yet unobtrusive hoppy bitterness. The original wort of 11.5 percent by weight and 4.8 percent alcohol by volume makes Andechser Hell one of the lighter beer specialties brewed by Klosterbrauerei Andechs.

The brewery says Andechser Hell is particularly popular in their core sales regions of the beverage stores, restaurants and taverns of Bavaria and neighboring Baden-Württemberg. It competes well in the increasingly segmented lager market.

Kloster Andechs Hellbier
© Andechser Hell by Klosterbrauerei Andechs

A dazzling surprise from Lower Bavaria

Huadinger Helles
© Huadinger Helles by Brauerei Hutthurm

The earthy beer specialty Huadinger Helles is no longer only known to the inhabitants of its Lower Bavarian hometown. It is also expanding from the native region. “We at the brewery are really pleased that Huadinger Helles sales are growing much faster than we ever expected among new customers outside of our own region,” said Matthias Bloch, the CEO of Brauerei Hutthurm. The beer specialty creates a delightfully fine feeling on the palate upon first tasting it. Huadinger Helles is a refreshingly light, full-bodied and spicy beer that is straw colored and has a low alcohol level (4.9 percent by volume).

Huadinger Helles is sold exclusively in 0.5-liter Euro bottles. The somewhat unusual name “Huadinger” was derived from its origin. This is what locals in the eastern Bavarian Forest have called the place Hutthurm for centuries – the site where brewing history extends back to 1577.

Steiner Helle and Export from Felsenkeller

High-quality regional ingredients and a traditional brewing process that applies state-of-the-art technology are what form Schlossbrauerei Stein’s foundation. They are especially proud of their cellar carved naturally from stone. The beer specialties are aged for four to six weeks, depending on each brew. Lagers are gaining market share, while export sales are stagnating or slightly declining.

The Steiner Bier Hell is lighter and milder than its export. This lively and drinkable pale lager has original wort of 11.5 and 4.9 percent alcohol by volume, with less emphasis on malt and hops. It’s aimed at people who have just started drinking beer as well as young beer lovers. The export is somewhat stronger, with original wort of 12.5 percent and 5.3 percent alcohol by volume. It is more full-bodied and intensive, both in color and taste.

The brewery primarily utilizes social media to advertise, as well as increasingly using placements at the POS and inserts in flyers at beverage stores.

Solar beers from Franconia – sustainably brewed

The Weiherer assortment of beers brewed by Brauerei Kundmüller includes Weiherer Lager and Weiherer Landbier, both members of the lager category.

Weiherer Lager is a classic beer and is a solar beer to boot – produced with renewable energies in a resource-conserving, climate-neutral process. It bursts with the grainy aroma of malt, an impression that continues upon first touching your palate. The malt is teamed with specifically fresh hops that turn this beer into a balanced lager. The aftertaste holds a hint of tartness, as well as a lingering bitterness accentuated by traces of malt. “Weiherer Lager is without question the best-selling Weiherer beers,” Managing Director Oswald Kundmüller said. “In 2020, it was presented with the highest International Craft Beer Award, the platinum medal.”

Weiherer Landbier is produced with high-quality ingredients grown in Franconia, a northern Bavarian region, and solely with renewable energies. This specialty is also a Solarbier (solar beer), a protected quality term for breweries that utilize renewable energies.

“The Weiherer Landbier has also been quite successful since we introduced it in 2013,” Oswald Kundmüller said. “It gained even more momentum after winning a gold medal at the European Beer Star in 2018.” The lager and the Landbier compose nearly 40 percent of the brewery’s production. Of this total, nearly 30 percent is lager and 10 percent is Landbier.

© Weiherer Landbier by Brauerei Kundmüller

Especially mild –time-honored taste from Mönchshof with a new look

Mönchshof Hellbier in Flasche und Glas
© Mönchshof Hell

The white-blue tradition is closely tied to a commitment to produce delicious, high-quality beer. To underscore this commitment, the mild Mönchshof Hell put on a new outfit in 2020. “Mönchshof is one of the top-selling lagers in Germany,” said Holger Schmidt, the Head of Marketing at the brewery. “We have refashioned our bottles somewhat. But we have not tinkered with the recipe at all.”

The beer specialty is brewed according to the Bavarian Beer Purity Law. The golden brew is highly accentuated and especially mild, the result of its subdued utilization of hops. Mönchshof Hell has 4.9 percent alcohol by volume and original wort of 11.3 percent.

Mönchshof Hell is distributed across Germany. It is sold in cases containing 20 0.5-liter flip-top bottles, as four-packs and in 0.5-liter cans. It is sold in the higher price segment.

Schönramer Hell, the EBS gold medalist

Schönramer Hell stands out from other lagers for one reason above all: its remarkable paleness. It has a soft taste that bears a hint of acacia and is shaped by the interplay of hops and malt. The clean, dry aftertaste leaves behind a delicate trace of hops and bitterness. This specialty glides down your throat and invites you to enjoy another. These special qualities stood out and earned Schönramer Hell a gold medal at the European Beer Star in 2020. In addition to the 0.5-liter bottle, the 0.33-liter Vichy bottle is fueling the popularity.

The brewery describes Schönramer Gold as a strong, “treacherous” lager. The Gold version is a wheat maerzen beer with 0.7 percent more alcohol than the lager. Its rich golden glow exudes the aroma of chestnut and honey. Sipping this full-bodied brew brings to mind freshly baked white bread. The beer’s aftertaste begins with sweet honey, followed by a fine trace of hoppy bitterness. The brewery says that Schönramer Gold rounds out the assortment of traditional brewing styles and is a stronger alternative to the Helles.

The beer specialty is a premium-segment product for beverage wholesalers and stores. As a matter of principle, the brewery does not offer price discounts. They have also been quite successful with its secondary placement of Andechser Hell as six-packs on CHEP pallets.

Moy Bier is back

“Mein Bier – Moy Bier” – many middle-age beer lovers from the Bavarian city of Freising and the surrounding region will think back fondly on this advertising slogan. Gräfliche Hofbrauhaus Freising (the owner of the Moy brand) has brought back the beer specialty brewed in the 1970s and 1980s as a bottom-fermented treat. Moy Bier Helles is sold in brown 0.5-liter Euro bottles.

Master brewer Arno Jacobi knew Moy Bier back when he was a student: “Really quaffable, not too strong, finely hopped – an excellent lager. I also have fond memories of the blue case bearing the words ‘Mein Bier Moy hier.’ “This is why I, the master brewer, am so excited to brew this beer once again in accordance with the Bavarian Beer Purity Law from 1516, and solely using regional ingredients and the best brewing water from our Freising mineral wells.”

Managing Director Jürgen Charrois said Moy Bier Helles had an authentic story to tell and was not some marketing department invention. “Moy Bier was the beer of the master brewers,” Charrois said. “And they knew which one was really good.”

Moy beer in bottle and box
© Moy Bier Helles

Value is what matters at Maxlrain

Schlossbrauerei Maxlrain brews three lagers: Maxlrainer Hellen, Maxl. Das Helle! and Schloss Gold Hell Export. Each beer is produced with different brewing techniques and ingredients. Their original wort and alcohol content vary, too. But they all share one singular quality: they have an all-around excellent and harmonious taste, something the brewery calls exceptional drinkability. “Our lagers are growing right now,” said Roland Bräger, the head of the brewery. “In contrast, sales of wheat beer and other lesser types are slipping. Consumer tastes are changing. They are moving away from the types of beer they used to drink and are switching to lagers.”

As a full-range brewer, Schlossbrauerei offers less popular beers as well. But the lager trend will not last forever, Schlossbrauerei said. It knows that consumers will eventually search for different taste. “We can offer everything from a single source and are well positioned for the future,” Roland Bräger said.

Individual marketing activities have been developed with the beverage wholesale and POS partners. These always focus on the high-quality of the beers themselves. Schlossbrauerei has no interest in a beer war that slashes prices. Instead, it concentrates on the exceptional value offered by the brewery’s products. “Others can play the cheap-price game,” Bräger said.

Strong Lösch-Zwerg

Lösch-Zwerg Würzig-Hell is the strongest lager beer brewed by Brauerei Schimpfle, and it can be purchased in every distribution area of Germany. Lösch-Zwerg Würzig-Hell is brewed with a special yeast strain. During the open Bottich fermentation process, this yeast unleashes aromatic taste components lending a spicy and mild character to the beer.

Hellbier Lösch-Zwerg
© Lösch Zwerg by Brauerei Schimpfle

The World Beer Awards jury certainly took note of the flavor, awarding a gold medal to Lösch-Zwerg Würzig-Hell in the Lager: Helles category.

“Long-term, we expect that sales of our lagers and also of our Lösch-Zwerg Würzig-Hell will continue to grow,” said Thomas Schimpfle, the owner of Brauerei Schimpfle GmbH & Co KG. “The popularity and appreciation of beer specialties have risen sharply in recent years. As a medium-sized, privately owned brewery, we are pleased that small breweries are attracting attention. Issues of quality and the art of brewing are gaining influence in the process.”

The brewery focuses on quality in its marketing. As part of this work, wholesalers receive both personal assistance and support through POS advertising material and display solutions. The brewery further creates purchasing incentives by offering give-aways and contests conducted both online and at the POS.

Münchner Hell: the focal point in 2021

Paulaner Münchner Hell has a long tradition. “When people consider Paulaner, wheat beer immediately comes to mind,” said Paulaner spokesman Johannes Rieger. “But our lager has the longest tradition.” Paulaner Brauerei has been brewing lager since the end of the 19th century. It is an extremely drinkable beer: mild and elegantly malty with a touch of sweetness. It continues to grow in popularity.

“Overall, the market is growing at an above-average rate,” Rieger said. “As a result, we thought it was obvious to showcase Paulaner’s long lager-brewing experience and gain some market share.” Given its long, tradition-filled history, the lager is one of the brewery’s core products.

Paulaner Münchner Hell is absolutely the central product in 2021. And the switch in bottles reveals how: In the future, the beer will be sold in Euro bottles. The transition is being highlighted in an eye-catching advertising campaign conducted through both classic and social media. Campaigns in POS, restaurants and taverns are also planned.

Paulaner Orginal Münchner Hell
© Paulaner Original Münchner Hell

Lagers from other regions

Ulmer Hell: the companion for every occasion

This beer from the Brauerei Gold Ochsen achieves the highest criteria in the art of brewing. Its taste is balanced, its color sparkling gold and its head firm. “Our Ulmer Hell has a balanced taste that fits perfectly in our range of high-quality brews,” said Herbert Sollich, the brewery’s Marketing Director.

The bottom-fermented, finely-hopped beer has original wort of 11.4 percent and 4.9 percent alcohol by volume. The Tettnang aroma hops and the barley malts utilized are perfectly proportional. They produce a highly drinkable beer noted for its balanced sweet and bitter nuances. The typically long aging times for lagers ensure that it remains fresh for a longer period of time and softly tickles the palate with fine bubbles.

Helles Pülleken: the new member at Veltins

“We have added two lagers to the Brauerei C. & A. Veltins product range in order to meet demand,” said Herbert Sollich, the brewery’s Marketing Director. “We started with Grevensteiner Naturtrübes Helles, a sensible complement to the Grevensteiner product trio. This lager fits perfectly in the traditional brand trio of Grevensteiner regarding both the optical and taste aspects.”

The newest family member was presented last year: Helles Pülleken. The lager is sold in handy bottles resembling the Euro bottle, and it “spontaneously” won consumer approval, the brewery said.

A vast number of sampling opportunities were created using six-packs and easy-to-carry four-packs. The launch was backed by wide-ranging social media activities. Then, a far-reaching billboard campaign also caught consumers’ eyes and generated strong demand. The Pülleken brand case introduction facilitated rapid deliveries to retailers, restaurants and taverns.

Furthermore, the harlequin on the label and his companions came to life on film for the first time at the end of the year: music that perfectly suited the product accompanied the three on their journey to the label.

Pülleken beer in bottle and glass
© Helles Püllekin byVeltins

Northern German export beers with loyal customers

Carlsberg Deutschland has added two new exports to its product line: Holsten Export and Lübzer Export.

Holsten Export has a distinct taste that produces full-bodied pleasure. It has 5.2 percent alcohol by volume and is brewed in accordance with Germany’s Beer Purity Law. Lübzer Export (5.2 percent alcohol by volume) is brewed via a traditional recipe as a bottom-fermented, full-bodied beer, and it utilizes clear water drawn from the deep springs of Lübz, a town in the heart of the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

“Overall, German export beers are not on a growth trajectory,” said Martin Michel, a Carlsberg Deutschland spokesman. “But Lübzer Export and Holsten Export have a large following of loyal customers. One reason is their strong attachment to northern and eastern Germany. The volumetric portfolio share remains stable as a result. We are not currently planning any special marketing for our export beers. But they are supported by the marketing and campaigns of our umbrella brands.”

The bottom line: Lagers are trend-setters

The lager category has repeatedly proven to be a ray of hope in the beer market. It has also topped the previous year’s sales volume once again. For breweries, this is reason enough to expand their portfolios or update current brews to the zeitgeist of today’s beer consumers. As a result, completely new brands are suddenly conquering store shelves. New product designs (labels/cases), and smaller bottles that many consumers welcome as an alternative to 0.5-liter bottles, represent important changes and additions made in order to maintain the appeal of existing products and the entire category itself.

Would you like to find out about current trends on the beverage market and exchange professional information? Then we invite you to take part in the next drinktec, which will be held in Munich from September 12 to 16, 2022. This article is powered by Verlag W. Sachon.

Verlag W. Sachon

The publishing house W. Sachon, headquartered at Mindelburg Castle, publishes nine established trade journals that regularly provide their readers with exciting and interesting information. The emphasis lies in the brewing and beverage industry. The specialized publications are published in German, English, Spanish and Mandarin. A national and an international newsletter as well as an SMS Executive Flash complete the print offer digitally.