Soccer World Cup lifts German beer sales

BERLIN, July 31 Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:47am EDT

BERLIN, July 31 (Reuters) - Beer sales rose in Germany, Europe's biggest producer, in the first half of the year thanks to a big jump in demand during the soccer World Cup in June, the Statistics Office said on Thursday.

The increase is good news for brewers in Germany, whose sales have suffered for most of the last two decades.

Around 48 million hectoliters of beer were sold in the first six months of the year, an increase of 4.4. percent from the same period last year, said the Office.

"The rise in sales in the first half of the year was driven by (a sharp increase) in June, when the World Cup tournament began in Brazil," said the Office.

In June alone, 9.7 million hectoliters of beer were sold in Germany, a 14 percent increase compared to last year.

Germany won the World Cup for the fourth time on July 13, triggering ecstatic celebrations involving a lot of beer drinking across the country.

Since the tournament ended in the second half of the year, this period may also see a year-on-year rise in sales, helped as well by the Munich Oktoberfest beer festival.

Despite a long and proud tradition of beer drinking and brewing in Germany, sales have slumped by more than a third in the 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall as young people have turned to spirits and soft drinks.

The last annual rise in beer sales was in 2006 when Germany hosted the World Cup, according to the DBB brewing association.

However, Germans still drink more beer per head than most of the world, trailing only their neighbours in the Czech Republic and Austria.

About 83 percent of total beer sales so far this year were intended for domestic consumption, said the Statistics Office.

In a fragmented market with many private brewers, Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns Beck's, and Carlsberg are the two international majors with a significant presence in Germany.

The Radeberger Group, which owns Jever, Berliner Pilsner and the Radeberger brand, sells the most beer in Germany. ABInBev comes next, followed by Bitburger.

The southern state of Bavaria is home to about half of Germany's brewers and big labels such as Loewenbraeu and Spaten. (Reporting By Emma Anderson; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Raissa Kasolowsky)