The german brewers don't have it easy. Sales have been declining steadily for years, the number of breweries is falling and the antitrust authorities are currently taking a keen interest in the major corporations. The five brewery owners who have taken a seat at the round table of the kitzingen newspaper have been proving for decades that things can be done differently.
Regional products are on the rise again. People are increasingly buying from local producers. Do the brewers realize this too??
Karl-heinz pritzl the topic of regionality is very important to all of us. Therein lies a difference to the faceless mass breweries. We are on site. Customers know us and we know our customers.
This is also noticeable in the sales?
Dietrich oechsner we are seeing a change in consumer attitudes that will affect everyone. In the 80s and 90s, it was still considered chic to buy as far away as possible. Now it's chic to have good quality from home.
Pritzl of course this is also due to the many food scandals in recent years. Customers are once again looking for proximity to the producer. This is better than buying something soulless from far away. To come back to sales: we are actually selling more beer in the region. But we lose out if we go a little further away. Schweinfurt, for example, is no longer a regional market for us.
Peter michael himmel the trend is clear: it's going from regional to local. We are selling more in the region, but beyond that it is becoming more difficult.
Where are the geographical boundaries between regional and local??
Sky the county of kitzingen is clearly local. But already in wurzburg there are clear cutbacks. And then there is the demographic factor: the population is declining and consumption has been falling for years.
Pritzl even if it sounds strange. We have a problem with young people.
Heaven there are many alternative products for young people. And the number of big parties is decreasing. Who still takes the time to put on such parties??
Is beer popular with the younger generation??
Pritzl it hasn't come that far, but beer used to be the standard drink, now it is for certain people age groups vodka or jagermeister.
Heaven this is also reflected in the number of breweries. In the 80s, there were still three breweries in kitzingen alone.
Karl wolf in rudenhausen, the clubs stick to the pub companies at events. And the drivers drink non-alcoholic beverages. We used to have three dance halls in the village, but now we only have the sports hall. And there is not even music on kirchweih saturday.
Is this a typical example of the development in the villages?
Oechsner definitely not. There are places where the youth is very active and organizes great parties, for example in groblangheim.
Pritzl there are indeed such exceptions. But in the 80s, 50 to 100 hectoliters of beer were drunk at anniversary parties. It was quite normal. Today, every club and every fire department thinks twice before holding a big party. The auand with security and all the requirements has become much too coarse. Today, five to seven hectoliters go over the table at anniversary celebrations.
Fewer and fewer and smaller festivals, plus concentration on the local market. This does not sound good. Can their specialties not be exported at all?
Pritzl the one or other market is already there, but the travel costs are also increasingly expensive and the advertising must also be paid.
Oechsner just stay at home does not work. But the home and the regional are the pillars of our business model. We buy all raw materials at home. A study has shown that one job in a brewery secures three jobs outside of it. So those who think further afield buy closer to home.
But this thinking has long prevailed.
Pritzl at least with large parts of the population. But the food scandals of the last few years have also had another consequence: food inspections have also become stricter in our country. And not all inspectors specialize in the beer market.
Oechsner we like to show our businesses during inspections and thus create trust, but the controls are sometimes extreme.
Heaven, a task force like this consists of seven or eight people who suddenly show up unannounced. And an inspector from the district office comes unannounced two or three times a year.
Pritzl and samples are also being taken in the trade. That is all right. The quality must be ensured, after all. But on average, food is sold too cheaply in this country.
Heaven the germans are rather price-hungry after all. It is not by chance that the discounters are so successful here.
The beer is also sold too cheaply?
Heaven look abroad, what it costs there. Whereby: in germany there are also local peculiarities. In southern bavaria, for example, beer is significantly more expensive. We in franconia are just a pilsner region and there is enormous competition.
Pritzl and some large corporations deliberately engaged in a price war. They only want to conquer market share through price and deliberately take the destruction of the middle class into account.
Against possible price agreements with the breweries, the cartel office is now taking action. Are you hoping for a positive effect?
Pritzl no, this example rather shows how weak the cartel office is. The price of beer has hardly changed in the last six or seven years. There is hardly a market that is as competitive as the beer market. The gas stations, on the other hand, change their prices every day. It would be better to investigate the market power of the food retail trade and see what they do with the breweries.
Dull it amazes me that the cartel office has not yet noticed that we have an oligopoly of traders, but certainly not of breweries.
Is it then for you at all a goal, with the discounters to be led?
Pritzl with the ancillary services that are demanded, it is really difficult. In addition to a favorable price, the discounters demand support for promotions, an advertising allowance, an annual bonus, and much more.
Heaven, and if you drop out, you also get a discontinuation bonus.
Pritzl our customers are rather the small, regional getrankehandler. But they don't have it easy either. They are also being broken with the cheap prices. More and more of these markets are falling by the wayside, and what comes next?? Rough getrankehandler with their chains. And of course it's all about the price again. The chain stores are going through the motions.
Heaven, just look at how many private getrankehandlers there are left in kitzingen.
Oechsner they notice of course also that the customer goes increasingly to the discounter. They used to be able to sell beer, juice, and water. Today, most customers only buy beer. And that out of solidarity. In addition, these companies often have recruitment problems.
You can't blame them for that. If there is no future perspective, one cannot recommend a business takeover to the next generation.
So the consequence could be that in a few years the big grocery chains will only be selling television beers?
Pritzl the danger exists.
In contrast, there is still a mature structure of owner-operated beverage markets in southern germany. With us it becomes unfortunately less and less.
Do the beer drinkers in southern germany have a different mentality??
Pritzl I think so. The cheapest crate there costs 13.99 euros. Hardly anyone has the idea of buying a TV beer. But it must be said that the transport to southern bavaria is more expensive for the large breweries. We in franconia are unfortunately within a day to reach.
Heaven and we are here learned pilstrinker.
Pritzl had we focused on exports and brands back then, we were not so vulnerable today.
Dull we lack an authentic beer for our region, like the hefeweizen in upper bavaria. In the 60s, we switched to pilsner and achieved good results. Now we have a problem because of the cheap pilsner glut of tv beers.
Wolf and the customers' demands are: the cheaper the better. We brewed lager and marzen. Then came the demand for pils – and we had to meet it.
An own lower franconian beer identity would be a dream: are there any ideas??
Pritzl it had to be a beer that was not in the mainstream and that naturally entailed a great risk. If it does not run, there is a threat of heavy losses.
Dull we need to think carefully how to proceed. Since 1992, 40 percent of the traditional breweries in germany have closed down. There are four breweries in the whole of saxony-anhalt. The cheapest strategy there has printed the local suppliers out of the market. But this does not only affect breweries, but also regional butchers, bakers and so on.
How to counteract this trend?
Pritzl the regionality can still be expanded. Especially if we make it clear to the consumer that diversity is also available regionally.
Dull moaning is of no use. We have to think about how to position our beer in our environment. It certainly helps to come back to the honesty of the products. We should explain to consumers what we do and then specialize in those customers who focus on regionality. We should leave everything else alone.
What does everything else?
Dull for example of the creations with the discounters.
The interview was conducted by ralf dieter