French beer booming in France and international markets

17-06-2016
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After a 30-year slump in consumption, beer drinking in France is once again back on track largely due to a number of craft beer brands making their mark in foreign markets.

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French beer met with renewed growth in 2015, with a 3.1% increase in volume, having seen a 1% year-on-year downward trend for the best part of three decades. The sheer volume of breweries and vast array of beers, together with a new wave of female beer drinkers driving consumption, explains this turnaround. The French are drinking more beer, discovering and appreciating its diversity, and trending towards a fuller flavoured style, according to the Association des Brasseurs de France, the French Brewers association. The craft beer movement goes hand in hand with a growth in French brewing. In 2015, the number of craft  “brasseries” in France reached the dizzy heights of 800, with more than 100 new additions to the fold. Previous years have seen only 50 new breweries, proof indeed that we are entering a new era. “We are seeing a huge upsurge in demand. The segment is thriving driven by quality, creativity and a high degree of invention” explains Jean-Barthélémy Chancel, who set up la Parisienne, a craft brewery in Paris’s 13th arondissement.

Bridging the gap between wine and beer 

With a passion for wine, Jean-Barthélémy Chancel set up his own Champagne House fourteen years ago. Driven by his success, he decided to try his hand at craft beer, which is how La Parisienne came to light: a commercial brewery trying to bridge the gap between wine and beer.

We are very much in a wine mind set. We wanted to be more than just a brewery, and retain a strong focus on quality. The creative part lies in our recipes. We come up with a new recipe every week. As soon as we are happy with the aromas, and feel we are on to a new idea or flavour, we give it a go. We don’t bother with market research, we road test our ideas,” explains Jean-Barthélémy Chancel.

This seems to be a recipe for success. Listing with 600 retailers have already been secured in Paris, with their bestselling flagship product La Parisienne blonde and new seasonal brews released every month. Recently, Yusu, the citrus darling of Japanese cuisine, is the flavour making its debut appearance in bars.

While La Parisienne is a runaway success in Paris and gaining ground around France, exports are also on the rise. Exports now account for 20% of La Parisienne’s sales, with a longterm objective of 30% in view. The company is seeing rapid growth in international markets and exports to around fifteen countries, with Western Europe, the US and Asia topping the export table.

Hong Kong is our main export market. We have exported two containers over the last six months”.

 La Parisienne is not the only one to dip its toe in international markets. Craft beer Mont-Blanc is also making waves in Asia. A gold medal awarded to its white beer at the highly acclaimed World Beer Awards is a definite selling point. Commercial success abroad tempts others to follow suit and helps raise awareness for a new quality French product that sits comfortably alongside wine.

The high quality of our products, “Made in France” savoir-faire and the Parisienne brand are an irrefutable advantage. The image of France and Paris help enormously,” Jean-Barthélémy Chancel is keen to point out.

The self-acclaimed “beer vigneron” demonstrates that quality and following a defined process, together with a strong dose of inventiveness, are often the key to commercial success in export markets.

Pietra finds a footing on the global beer market

The Pietra beer brand is well known in Corsican circles and the French are also catching on. This chestnut beer is also starting to appeal in export markets. “We were very aware of the limits of Corsica as a market, and therefore launched our first tentative export steps as soon as Brasserie Pietra opened in 1996. We focused essentially on Italy, mainly due to its proximity to France and relatively reduced overheads as a result,” explained Armelle Sialelli, Managing Director SAS Brasserie Pietra. Provenance, quality, authenticity and savoir-faire are key to the company. To give an example, we added chestnut flour to Pietra, which is a local raw ingredient, and in the case of Colomba, our white beer, we incorporated mixed herbs from the region” added its Director.  While Italy remains our primary export market, our efforts are now turning to the United States, which is looking set to continue.  To further increase our chances of success in our export strategy, Pietra has joined forces with eight other French breweries to form the “French Craft Brewers” association. “The aim is to be stronger together to approach export markets, with our sights set firmly on the US”.  Joining forces for greater impact on target markets is certainly an idea to inspire other categories.