22 September 2023

French beer consumption is on the rise – but slowly

France | The French prefer blondes. But they also appreciate dark, amber, and white beers. Benefiting from nearly-flat sales of wine since 2019 – due to inflation, the pandemic and climatic hazards that have sometimes disrupted production – packs of beer have settled comfortably in French fridges.

Surveys say that in 2022, 23 million households in France have bought one or several packs of beer, 770,000 more than three years earlier, in 2019.

Still, France still has some way to go to catch up with its European peers in terms of beer consumption. On average, the French drink 33 litres of beer a year. This is a poor performance, as it puts France far behind the Czech Republic (129 litres/year/inhabitant) and Austria (101 litres/year/inhabitant). They also consume far less beer than their southern neighbour Spain (50 litres in 2021 per Statista), another traditional wine country.

French consumers go for specialty beers

The French may be drinking few beers on average, but they drink more specialty beers than others. From tequila-flavoured to fruit-flavoured beers, the beer aisle has never been more diverse.

Beer consumption has benefitted greatly from craft brewers, whose number has risen to nearly 2,500 – or tenfold over the past 15 years.

Craft beers occupy a large niche

This is quite some achievement for a traditional wine country. However, it is still hard for genuine craft beers to rise above all the brews churned out by the Big Brewers Heineken, Carlsberg/Kronenbourg, and AB-InBev. All the Big Brewers all have so-called “bières artisanales”, or craft beers, in their portfolios.

Although the sales of craft beer rose 10 percent in 2022, it still only accounts for 5 percent (others put its share at 8 percent by volume and 10 percent by value) of the beer market in France, where 65 percent of all beer is sold in supermarkets.

Every drinker is a “connoisseur” 

The enthusiasm around local consumption of craft beer has not yet weakened, but consumers have become more demanding, and more difficult to convince. Craft brewers must therefore adjust their prices and stand out with innovative products, observers say.

Yet, craft brewers are facing strong macroeconomic headwinds. In 2022, some 50 of them closed their doors, according to reports. Earlier this year, the Brewers Association of France warned that one in ten craft breweries could go under this year.

With estimated sales of EUR 4.1 billion (USD 4.4 billion) per year, the brewing industry is a sizeable contributor to public finances. Social security contributions, taxes and levies on beer production and sales alone amount to EUR 1.1 billion a year. Moreover, the industry is a major employer, providing jobs for more than 130,000 people, reports say.

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