Current developments

In the post-war years a global market for European-style beers has developed. The bulk of the beer is of the lager variety and is produced by bottom fermentation. Of course, many other beer types are still produced and many may have important domestic markets but in terms of world sales they may be regarded as specialities. In consequence, in most countries the brewing industry has tended to become polarised between a few companies which produce the bulk of the national output and numerous small breweries each servicing a small local market. The major companies frequently own many individual breweries, sometimes in several countries, and have a national or international market.

In Europe, in particular, the major brewing companies have usually arisen via merger and acquisition. This process has occurred over many years but was particularly prevalent during the 1960s (Gourvish & Wilson, 1994). In consequence, the total number of brewing companies in any particular country has tended to decline. For example, in the United Kingdom in 1870 there were 133 840 licensed brewers. By 1906 this had declined to 1418, in 1946 453 and a mere 111 in 1967. By 1997, 80% of the total beer output is produced by just four companies. Indeed, at the time of writing further consolidation seems likely! A similar situation exists in the rest of the world. With the exception of Germany, which has retained a greater number of smaller brewing companies, the bulk of the world brewing volume in developed countries is carried out by a few large companies (Table 1.2).

In parallel, there is now a trend towards the establishment of new small craft or 'pub' breweries. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook (Thurman & Witheridge, 1995) lists 177 brewing companies which have been launched since 1 January 1971. Most of these are small, frequently servicing a

Table 1.2 Proportion of total beer output produced by large brewing companies in some leading countries during 1993 (from Thurman & Witheridge, 1995).


Total annual

Output by major


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