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Beer labels: global trends and choices

By Steve Katz, Editor | January 27, 2014

Asia leads the way in this wet-glue dominated market.

This weekend, a de facto holiday takes place in the United States – Super Bowl Sunday. Celebrating the year’s most important football game and culminating the end of the NFL season, there will be parties. Food will be served – lots of it. In fact, Americans will consume 1.23 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the National Chicken Council. Pizza Today says there will be 15 million pizzas sold on the day of the Big Game. And what do folks like to wash down their pizza and chicken wings with? Beer. A lot of beer. Nielsen reports that in the US, in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, $1.01 billion is spent on beer alone.

Beer and watching football go hand-in-hand. And Super Bowl Sunday is just one of many events that exemplify the health of the beer industry. According to AWA Alexander Watson Associates, global beer production is expected to grow annually at a rate of 2.4%. It’s a healthy packaging market to be in, though it’s one that changes and evolves. Major mergers and acquisitions, the rise of microbreweries, and developments in labeling and packaging have all been making headlines within the beer industry.

AWA estimates that in 2012, globally, beer labels totaled 3.292 billion square meters. The Asian region accounted for 47% of that volume, followed by Europe (19%) and South America (15%). North America accounted for just 8% of this beer label volume.

Within the North American beer label market, AWA reports that in 2012 wet glue labels made up 62% of beer label volume, versus 32% for pressure sensitive. Compared to the rest of the world, the pressure sensitive industry in North America is far ahead of other regions.

In Europe, wet glue beer label volume numbers are similar to North America at 64%, however, PS lags behind, making up just 10% of the market. Wraparound glue-applied labels in Europe make of 25% of its market.

The wet glue vs. pressure sensitive disparity is even more pronounced in Asia and South America. In Asia, wet glue makes up a whopping 94% of beer label demand with pressure sensitive at just 4%. South America represents an 84% to 14% split. Sleeve labels account for just 1% and 2% of the beer label market in these regions, respectively.

AWA estimates that by 2017, global label volumes will have increased to around 3,850 million square meters. However, the growth by region, AWA says, is dictated by growth in beer volume styles and by competition from alternative packaging.

Following their merger, AB InBev is the world’s largest brewer, accounting for 18% of global beer production. While the bulk of AB InBev’s labels are glue-applied, the rise of small, privately-owned breweries points to pressure sensitive as an attractive labeling option.

Meanwhile, potential new customers are popping up everywhere, with the demand for craft beer having never been higher. The Brewer’s Association reports that in 2013 there were more than 2,300 craft breweries in the US alone. Today – and the numbers continue to rise – there are a greater number of beer producers than ever.

Looking at global market share, along with AB InBev, SABSMiller, Heineken and Carlsberg account for 43% of beer production volume. Of total volume, 35% comes from relatively smaller breweries, many of whom are new to the market. And like any commercial food and beverage product, new beers to hit the market need labels and packaging. Successful brewers need labels that are not only required by law, but also can stand out in a highly competitive shelf environment.

The third edition of AWA Alexander Watson Associates’ Global Beer Label Market Study 2013 has recently been published, bringing in-depth insights into the global market’s preferences by region, labeling technologies used, and decoration on beer packaging.

Trends in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world are all documented in the report with analysis of key demand influences and market drivers in each of the regions. Regional preferred container choices and labeling and decoration technologies are also discussed, and the markets’ different structures set in the context of environmental issues, taxation and other legislation, and consumer attitudes. 

The Global Beer Label Market Study 2013 is available at

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