West European 2009 beer market fell 2.5 pct-report

LONDON Mon May 24, 2010 8:40am EDT

LONDON May 24 (Reuters) - The Western European beer market fell 2.5 percent in volume terms in 2009, with nearly all markets falling, while the Heineken brand held on to its top spot for the 22nd year, said independent researcher Plato Logic.

The world's four biggest brewer -- Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), SABMiller (SAB.L), Heineken (HEIN.AS) and Carlsberg (CARLb.CO) -- are all based in Western Europe and have relied on growth from the emerging markets of Latin America and Asia rather than recession-hit western Europe.

"Nearly all markets were lower in what was clearly a difficult year, with volumes in the on-trade channel falling by around 6 percent," said Plato director Ian Pressnell said in a report on Monday.

The premium beer market declined by more than 3 percent, showing it had suffered more as beer drinkers traded down to cheaper brews in tough economic times, he said.

The Heineken brand sold over 11 million hectolitres of beer in 2009 to retain its top spot while Carlsberg with nearly 8 million hectolitres leapfrogged Molson Coors' (TAP.N) Carling beer into second place.

Heineken brews Foster's and Amstel filled fourth and fifth spots, while Carlsberg's Kronenbourg came sixth and AB InBev's Stella Artois seventh. (Reporting by David Jones; Editing by Dan Lalor)