Wiki Spanish Food.- The association has been around for a very long time. Which companies are currently members and in what activities is it involved?
The Brewers of Spain.- As you know, the Brewers of Spain has represented Spain's beer industry as a whole since 1922. It currently comprises almost all beer producers in Spain and includes the following: MAHOU-SAN MIGUEL Group, HEINEKEN ESPAÑA, DAMM Group, ESTRELLA LEVANTE, ALHAMBRA ALIMENTARIA Group, HIJOS DE RIVERA, COMPAÑÍA CERVECERA DE CANARIAS and LA ZARAGOZANA. One of the association's most important tasks is to defend and maintain the beer consumption habits that are typical of Mediterranean culture. With this goal in mind, the sector implements educational and safety campaigns (instead of negative initiatives) adapted to specific publics, including: minors ("Parents have the final word"), young people ("A bit of alcohol, a lot of common sense"), drivers ("An alcohol-free beer for the road") and women who are breastfeeding ("An alcohol-free pregnancy").
W.S.F.- What are the main challenges facing Spain's beer industry today?
B.O.S.- Firstly, and in view of the magnitude of the economic situation, the challenge has shifted from maintaining our efforts to date to promoting beer consumption in the catering segment, which is extremely important for Spain's economy. Another challenge, in line with the sector's ongoing goal of growth, is to maintain the trend of the last few years in terms of international sales: to remain competitive outside Spain and to penetrate new markets.
W.S.F.- Consumption at all levels is declining as a result of the current economic context. How is the situation affecting the brewing industry?
B.O.S.- The economic panorama is impacting consumption in all sectors, and we are no exception. Beer consumption in the catering segment is closely linked to consumer confidence and to the population's general sentiment—two factors which are not especially positive at the moment. As a result, beer consumption via that segment—which generates the greatest wealth—has declined by 21% in cumulative terms in the last six months. Although catering remains the main source for beer drinking, consumption slipped by 4.5% in 2012, compared with growth of 3.5% in total beer consumption in the home.
W.S.F.- Beer consumption is very closely linked to weather and to popular events, such as the UEFA 2012 European Soccer Championship. Do you believe that 2013 will be a good year for consumption?
B.O.S.- It's difficult to make those kinds of predictions, especially considering that beer consumption did not increase last year, despite the Soccer Championship and greater tourism. Now the weather appears to be returning to normal for this time of year, but the heavy precipitation and low temperatures in 2013 to date have not favored consumption. However, if the good weather continues and consumer confidence improves, we believe that performance in the rest of 2013 could be positive. Spain's stable fiscal framework, together with the efforts of brewers and catering establishments, may also help boost beer consumption.
W.S.F.- The catering and hospitality segments are very important for brewers; however, consumption in those channels has declined by 4.5%. What are you doing to address this situation?
O.S.- That 4.5% decline is attributable to consumption occasions in the catering segment and confirms the trend that began with the crisis. We are concerned about the situation, since beer consumption in that sector has a multiplier effect on the economy in terms of job creation and tax collection by the State. It's important to note that more than half of all jobs created through beer consumption are in bars and restaurants.
W.S.F.- Companies are increasingly investing in R&D and innovation. How important is this area for brewers? Do you know how many new products the beer industry brings to market each year?
B.O.S.- Investment in R&D and innovation plays an extremely important role in the sector, as we have identified a new type of consumer that increasingly demands new products, beyond your classic lager. To this end, we have been focusing on innovation, and every year our companies launch new varieties of beer: premium, gluten-free, etc. And speaking of innovation, it's worth noting that Spain is a pioneer in the sale of non-alcoholic beer.
W.S.F.- In the last year, the beer industry increased exports by 25%. What actions are being rolled out to continue to expand internationally?
B.O.S.- The key to this growth is the dynamism of Spanish brewers, which are committed to selling their products outside Spain. This strategy is further supported by the quality of our beer, which is highly valued by the millions of tourists that visit Spain each year. When they return home, they seek out our brands.