Beer yes, but special

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Consumption of specialty beers grows, but classic pale ale endures

Shelves as long as wine shelves. But filled with beer. In fact, of beers. Alongside the classic lager there is a proliferation of English stout, Belgian Trappist, citrus Ale, red, non-alcoholic and radler labels, i.e., beer and soft drink mixes. The wide variety of so-called specialty beers along with craft beers invades the shelves of large-scale retail stores, with peaks of 118 references in supermarkets and 189 in hypermarkets.

The boom in specialty beers

For the past couple of years, beer consumption has been at pre-crisis levels, Assobirra reports. As early as 2016, volumes have returned to the 31 liters per capita of 2007. And between 2010 and 2017, while the volumes of food sold by large-scale retail grew by an average of 2 percent, beer marked a 32 percent increase in value.

As evidenced by the breadth of offerings in large-scale retail outlets (selling 59 percent of the volume), the secret to success is diversification. Indeed, specialty beers in particular are driving the recovery. From 2010 to 2017 they grew by 49.5 percent (by 70 percent in value, being more expensive), compared with +15 percent for lagers (+21.5 percent in value). The most vocated macro-region is the Northwest, where consumption of specialty beers-often away from home-represents 36 percent of the total in Italy.

Although they account for just under 14 percent of the more than 18.8 million hectoliters of beer sold in Italy, specials are the undisputed stars of the formidable growth. ‘Drink different‘/as the report ‘Italians and specialty beers’, conducted by Doxa in April 2018 for the Beer Observatory, defines it-is a well-established choice for 7 out of 10 Italians. Of these, 77 percent say they are attracted to the new flavors of specialty beers, and 82 percent even believe they are easier to pair with the Mediterranean diet. Compared to the classic clear, which remains the ideal pairing with pizza. An exploration of novelty that nevertheless coexists with the pleasure of classic clear. In fact, 61% of respondents say they alternate between classic clear and specials.

Between curiosity about new flavors and supine acceptance of new fashions, the increased price does not discourage purchases. Doxa respondents say they are willing to pay more for specialty beers. Thirty percent of stout, red and Trappist consumers pay any price, and 10 percent spend up to 8 euros per bottle.

Production and exports are flying as is domestic consumption, with record numbers. Assobirra data attest that in 2017 exports reached an all-time high (2.7 million hectoliters), growing by 7.9 percent.

Same trend for production. Between the volumes produced by the big boys and the activity of the more than 850 microbreweries scattered throughout Italy, the product rose 7.5 percent to a record 15.6 million hectoliters.

Italian malt production in turn grew by 3.4 percent to 75,800 tons.

Marta Strinati

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".