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The Fassbrause Renaissance

04 April 2013

The traditional German malt based beverage, fassbrause, which first originated in Berlin more than one hundred years ago has been experiencing a renaissance in Germany. The drink gained popularity in the GDR (1949-1990), but lost prominence until 2010 when producers started to lauch fassbrause back into the market. This beverage has been growing significantly in popularity and volumes ever since.

Fassbrause has traditionally been a speciality of Berlin, initially created back in the turn of the twentieth century as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer. The beverage was originally made from mineral water, sugar, malt extract and flavorings and was stored in a keg. Today, however, Fassbrause is brewed with slightly different ingredients and is mainly sold to the consumer in glass bottle packaging.  There are two types of fassbrause currently available on the market: a traditional malt-based and fermented style with added herbs or fruits, and an alcohol-free beer mixed with lemonade or herbs/fruits. With no legal restriction on the fassbrause name, the latter fassbrause style has caused speculation about its classification within the German market, with some unsure whether to consider it as an alcohol-free beer mix or a soft drink. In terms of majority consumer perception both styles of fassbrause are considered as carbonates within the German market; the small percentage of non-alcoholic beer in the latter style is always outweighed by the juice/fruit content. In addition, many producers also classify the two types as the same product in terms of competition.

Many would ask then, how – if classed in the near saturated carbonates category (a category which only experienced 1% growth in 2012, compared to over 5% growth five years earlier) – is fassbrause performing so well? The unique appeal of this product comes through its perception as an alternative to other carbonated beverages: its sharp, bitter flavour in comparison to mainstream sweetened carbonates. This traditional beverage additionally attracts a young, urban customer base in line with the popular ’vintage/retro’ trend, and those with health concerns through its positioning as a low calorie beverage.

With a positive consumer reaction to the re-emerging segment, more and more producers have taken to developing new fassbrause products to enter the market over recent years. Innovation has been particularly evident among  brewers who already have the means for fassbrause production, and are keen to balance losses in a period of continuously declining beer consumption. Both large breweries (such as Krombacher, Bitburger, Veltins), as well as regional-based, smaller ones (Distelhäuser, Welde, Barre) have been producing fassbrause. The biggest producer is Kölsch brewery Gaffel, with production sharply increasing from 2011 to 2012. The regional producers normally distribute fassbrause only within their own respective regions.

As a result of these combined efforts, the fassbrause segment has been rapidly gaining momentum, making a huge leap in 2012. This was supported by strong advertising and marketing activities of the breweries. Sometimes referred to as the “new Bionade“ (a malt based beverage which saw popularity around four years ago), fassbrause has become quite a trend, with all indications suggesting it will continue to grow in popularity over the coming years. The place of this dynamic re-emerging segment and its forecast evolution will be analysed in further detail in Canadean’s Germany Soft Drinks Market Insight report due to be released in June 2013.


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