VILNIUS - The gloomy summer weather hasn't put a dent in Baltic brewers' hopes and ambitions, as many have managed to expand domestic sales and slowly make headway into foreign markets. Lithuanian breweries posted an increase in sales and a leading Estonian brewery reported an impressive 62 percent increase in last year's sales.
The Lithuanian Brewers' Association announced last week that the country's major breweries recorded a 4.7 percent increase in domestic beer sales year-on-year from January to July. The association, which represents seven breweries, said that July beer sales grew 8.5 percent to 29.2 million liters compared with the same month in 2004.
Exports were an important catalyst for improved sales, with the country's five major brewers exporting 9 million liters of beer in the first seven months, up 47.2 percent from 6.1 million liters a year earlier.
The five breweries doubled their aggregate beer exports to 10 million liters last year from 5 million in 2003.
Domestically, Svyturys-Utenos Alus, the country's number one beer producer, controlled by the Nordic group Baltic Beverages Holding, held a 48.36 percent market share with beer sales for January-July rising 4.5 percent year-on-year. Kalnapilio-Tauro Grupe, which is majority owned by Denmark's Royal Unibrew, was second with a 23.74 percent market share. Its sales fell 1.5 percent year-on-year over the seven-month period.
Ragutis, which is controlled by Finland's Olvi, raised its sales by 7.4 percent to 16.1 million liters and had a market share of 10.85 percent.
Gubernija posted a 7.8 percent rise in sales to 15.68 million liters, which gave it a market share of 10.52 percent.
In Estonia, the A.Le Coq Tartu Olletehas announced last week that it posted a 62 percent increase in annual sales in 2004 to 669.8 million kroons (42.8 million euros). Operating profit in the 12 months was up 13 percent, reaching 97.5 million kroons.
A.Le Coq Tartu Olletehas sold 100 million liters of various beverages during 2004, 64 percent more than in 2003.
Domestic beverage sales grew 51 percent year-on-year, with the biggest increase occurring in the sale of water, by 95 percent. Beer sales, by comparison, were up 14 percent.
A.Le Coq Tartu Olletehas made investments worth 54 million kroons during the year.
In Latvia, market leader Aldaris said last week that it sold 32.9 million liters of beer from January to July, 3.5 percent more than in the same period last year. The company said it sold 6.8 million liters of beer on the domestic market, 23 percent more than in July last year.