• Q1 beer volumes steady at 50.3m hectolitres
  • Europe beer volumes fall 10% in three months to end of March
  • UK volumes down 30% as on-premise craters
  • Brand Heineken global volumes climb 12%

Heineken’s global beer volumes stayed flat in Q1 as the brewer’s exposure to the pandemic-hit European on-premise made for a challenging start to the year.

Volumes in the three months to the end of March remained at 50.3m hectolitres as growth in Asia and the US was undercut by a 10% decline in Europe, Heineken said today. Europe, which accounts for 27% of Heineken’s total beer volumes, has seen widespread closures of bars and restaurants to contain COVID-19, thus heavily impacting demand.

According to the group, its on-premise volumes in Europe fell by two-thirds in the quarter.

Within Europe, Heineken’s regional teams struggled against the pandemic. UK total volumes fell by 30% as on-premise volumes sunk to near zero. In the company’s home market of the Netherlands, total volumes dropped by about 20%, the company said.

Off-premise volumes grew across Europe, however, as consumers switched to supermarket and convenience channels, although not enough to outpace declines overall. The effect of the volumes drops on sales was unclear as Heineken does not provide revenue data for the first quarter. However, in 2020, Heineken’s full-year sales were among the beer industry’s worst-affected, dropping 12% over the 12 months.

In Asia, where some countries have already emerged from lockdowns or escaped relatively unscathed by COVID, beer volumes increased by 5%, driven by the double-digit growth of Vietnam, Singapore, Laos, Taiwan and South Korea. For brand Heineken, China’s volumes grew by double-digits, driven by the roll-out of Heineken Silver through local distribution partner China Resources Beer.

In the US, beer volumes increased by low-single-digits.

Heineken praised the performance of its namesake brand, which was up 12% in global volumes. The brewer also hailed the progress of a cost-cutting programme, unveiled last year, which has seen a reduction in staff and an expanded focus away from beer to high-growth categories such as hard seltzer.

CEO Dolf van den Brink

“We had a solid start to the year, despite facing severe restrictions across many markets and the closure of the on-trade in Europe due to the pandemic. Overall beer volume was in line with last year, with strong growth in Africa, Middle East & Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific and modest growth in the Americas.”

Heineken’s hard seltzer switch and the rise of ranch water – Click here for a just-drinks focus