The Slovenia Times

Beverages Industry: The Water Era



During a hot summer day, a cold refreshment could hardly be more welcome, especially a non-alcoholic one. However, on a balmy summer's evening as you sit down with friends in a bar or a seaside restaurant, you are far more likely to order a beer or a glass of wine, particularly if good food is to hand. A hot summer accompanied by a major, month-long, world sporting event is probably about as good as it gets for producers of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. And for that matter, for bar and restaurant owners, too. Competition in the Slovenian beverage market has become very tough, especially since cheaper products from eastern countries began appearing on supermarket shelves. Last year was particularly so, as poor weather, especially during summer, conspired to keep a lid on sales. In general terms, beer sales have remained steady if rather unspectacular. On the other hand, demand for water and 'near water' products, such as energy and sports drinks, is growing. The fruit juice market is considered to be in a 'mature' phase, where there are numerous products on the market, whose life cycles are short, but the differentiation between them is greater. Tough competition Last year, consumers across the globe drank 1,608,000 hectolitres (hl) of beer, which was an increase of 5.1 per cent on the previous year. In 2004, cheap, imported beers began to appear on Slovenian shelves alongside better quality local standards. G"sser and Staropramen were among the better quality foreign beers able to secure a footing here, especially in the catering sector. Sales of generic beers at stores such as Mercator, Tus, Interspar are also on the rise. The largest producer of beverages in Slovenia is the Pivovarna Lasko Group, which incorporates three breweries and produces a wide range of fruit juices, mineral waters and spirits. They succeeded in uniting the majority of Slovenia's beverage producers, including Pivovarna Lasko, which last year controlled 52.1 per cent of Slovenia's beer market, and its erstwhile rival Pivovarna Union, which accounted for a further 36.1 per cent of the market. These figures are slightly worse than the year before, as imported beers made further inroads into their domain growing from 8.9 per cent in 2004 to 11.8 per cent in 2005. Last year, the Pivovarna Lasko Group sold a total of 4.9 million hl of various drink products, almost 24 per cent of which was exported. Beer represented 42.3 per cent of total sales, while fruit juices and water products accounted for the remaining 57.5 per cent. This year, the group is expecting similar results, although they are quick to point out that this will inevitably depend on the weather, so this year's unusually cold spring and the extreme temperatures experienced in July have to be taken into account. Regardless, in comparison with last year when they sold more than 2 million hl of beer, sales of water products and beer are up and are expected to be that way at the end of the year. The future? Flavoured water! Attractively priced imports have had a greater impact on the local water market than they have had on the beer market. The European trend of falling demand for sparkling mineral water is being mirrored in Slovenia, therefore, producers such as Radenska, a producer and marketer of mineral and spring water and other non-alcoholic beverages and another member of the Pivovarna Lasko Group, need to be inventive. In spite of the trend, Radenska has increased its sales of water and other non-alcoholic beverages, with sparkling mineral water still accounting for about 63.5 per cent of total sales. This year they launched a new product range called Oaza onto the market, which currently comes in two flavours. Pivovarna Union also launched another flavoured water product onto the market; Za Symphony became the fourth flavour in the Za product range. Obviously Slovenian producers are following world trends and for good reason, as sales of 'near water' products are expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. Pivovarna Lasko Group leads the way Market researchers, Gfk Gral-Iteo, have been studying the hospitality and catering sectors in Slovenia through their HoReCa Panel project since April 2002. Three surveys are conducted annually - in April, July and October. Their results show that the beer market is still dominated by Pivovarna Lasko and Pivovarna Union, both from the Pivovarna Lasko Group. The former controls more than half of the market and the latter about 40 per cent. As far as specific products are concerned, Lasko's Zlatorog accounts for 40 per cent of all beer sales while Union's Pale Ale accounts for approximately a third. Other brands and boutique beers make up the remainder. Lasko and Union even compete in the boutique beer market and Lasko's Bandidos Ice has just driven Union's Smile out of third place. "The market is waiting to see how well the two new varieties of Bandidos, Hot and Lemon, perform this year," says Geni Arh from Gfk Gral-Iteo. The picture is very similar where water products are concerned. The Pivovarna Lasko Group dominates the market with Radenska (Lasko) controlling more than half the market and Zala (Union) about one third. "Over the last few years, activity in the water market has been quite frenetic," says Geni Arh. While the carbonated Radenska Classic still accounts for about 40 per cent of all water product sales, this market share is being steadily eroded by noncarbonated still water and flavoured water products. Union's Za Life, Za Harmony and Za Symphony have made significant inroads into the market, with Za Life now accounting for 10 per cent of all water product sales. It is closely followed by spring waters Radenska Still and Zala (Union) in third and fourth spots.


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