Beer resilient over COVID lockdown but future is frothy

The downscaling of village feasts and the cancellation of the 2020 European nations football tournament, one of the summer’s greatest pull factors for bars and beer, is also expected to have an impact on sales

Even as the COVID-19 lockdown fades from collective memory, the cancellation of large-scale outdoor concerts and festivals like Farsons’ own beer festival will take its toll on the Maltese beer market.

The downscaling of village feasts and the cancellation of the 2020 European nations football tournament, one of the summer’s greatest pull factors for bars and beer, is also expected to have an impact on sales.

“Beer is a very social beverage, often consumed in crowded spaces, both indoors and outdoors, with consumption peaking during hot summer weeks, by locals and tourists alike,” Farsons head of sales and marketing Susan Weenink Camilleri said. “It is therefore not difficult to realise that the measures introduced during the pandemic impacted heavily on such opportunities and therefore on sales.”

Weenink Camilleri says the Maltese public remained loyal to their local beer brands during the lockdown, even though the increase in online and retail sales did not match the impact of outdoor restrictions and a tourism slump that turned beer into one of COVID-19’s greatest casualties.

“During the peak of the pandemic, and while the full set of measures were in force, with families staying indoors most of the time, we did see a modest increase in retail sales, mainly coming from online sales, however this did not in any way compensate for the drops registered from the closure of bars and restaurants during the same period.”

And while Maltese brands remained consumer favourites, it remains premature to quantify the final extent of the COVID pandemic on sales, despite being mitigated to some extent by government support measures.

Now that Malta is emerging from the lockdown with the lifting of measures on hotels, bars and restaurants, the onset of summer signals the first signs of a pick-up in business.

“The Maltese are showing signs of wanting to return to a semblance of ‘normality’… however we are far from where we started and where we need to be,” Weenink Camilleri said.

But while weekends are seeing some activity especially in entertainment areas, the weekdays have been particularly challenging in the absence of any custom from tourism. Farsons see the opening of Malta International Airport as a next milestone for the pick-up in beer sales, but it is still too early to understand the extent of the return of tourists to Malta.

“Only then can we really understand the full effect of any improvement or otherwise from the lifting of measures,” Weenink Camilleri said.

“We need to remain vigilant not only with respect to the virus along with its immediate implications on business in general, but also in the longer term as the impact of COVID-19 has been so significant on most businesses and will certainly result in lasting changes in how many businesses are structured and operate.”

More in National