German brewer Becks tries to crack the American market
By Volker Danisch and Daniel Schnettler Mar 1, 2012, 3:06 GMT
New York - Cars and beer are Germany's two most famous products but in the United States the country's beer brews are not so well-known.
Competition in the huge US market is fierce and a brewery must follow a long road to become a favourite drink. With this in mind the German brewing house Becks is engaging in an experiment and has decided to open a beer production facility in the United States.
'The American market is an interesting one for German brewers. There are a few that have become successful,' says Niklas Other, editor in chief of brewing trade journal, Inside. 'But all of them import their beers into the US.' Becks has decided to adopt a different strategy at some risk to itself. Imported beers are regarded by American consumers as expensive. 'The word Premium is printed on the label, signalling the upper price end,' says Other.
German beers have an excellent reputation among American drinkers but their sales are very low. According to figures produced by the market research company SymphonyIRI the mass-produced American beers of Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite overwhelmingly dominate American's drinking tastes. When Americans decide to drink a foreign beer it's usually Corona from Mexico. Heineken from the Netherlands and Stella Artois from Belgium are also popular but German beers aren't to be found in the top league.
That has nothing to do with a shortage of choice. At least in America's large cities there is a greater selection of beers to choose from than in many German towns. In New York, for example, the Cologne brew Kolsch has a trendy reputation and even exotic drinks like the smoked beer Schlenkerla or the unfiltered Zwicklbier can be found in a few pubs.
There are no less than 105 beers to choose from at the trendy DBGB restaurant in Manhattan. Eight of them are from Germany while most are from the United States. The mass-produced American beers tend to have a rather thin taste but there is a vibrant American micro-brewing scene that is slowly gaining in popularity.
That explains why it's difficult for German brewers to gain a foothold in the market. Most German breweries are mid-sized companies that do not have the finances to spend on big advertising campaigns. Compared to their international competitors like Anheuser Busch InBev, German brewers are very small players. Among the German beer makers trying their luck in the United States are Radeberger, Bitburger and Krombacher.
German brewers also have the expense of getting their products to the US market to contend with. After paying for airfreight or shipping charges there's a big risk that there will be no profit left. That's one reason why Becks has decided to go into production on US territory. However, the only reason they can afford this big step is because they are part of the Anheuser Busch InBev group, along with Stella Artois and the classic American beer Budweiser.
Since the beginning of the year the Anheuser Busch brewery in St. Louis, Missouri, has been making Becks. Chris Cools, the head of the German branch of the company, says he's confident that Becks will lose none of its German character. He believes the beer's taste will be enough to ensure success. Becks is brewed according to Germany's Beer Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot, that dates back hundreds of years and is made in exactly the same way in 15 countries.
Other famous brands like BMW, Mercedes and VW are also no longer solely made in Germany. All of these companies have production facilities outside the country, including in the United States But compared to German breweries, the German automakers are true giants in their field.
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