The Union of Brewers in Bulgaria answers the challenges with innovative campaigns and high public approval, says Ivana Radomirova, CEO
The Union of Brewers in Bulgaria (UBB) is a representative organisation of beer producers and suppliers of ingredients, materials and equipment. Since its foundation 30 years ago, the organisation's mission has been to help and encourage sustainable development of Bulgarian brewing industry, to raise the professional status of people in the field and to popularise modern beer culture. Members of UBB are Boliarka Brewery, Britos, Zagorka, Kamenitza, Carlsberg Bulgaria, Lomsko Pivo, Dorovski Invest.
In 2021, the Union of Brewers in Bulgaria celebrates 3 emblematic anniversaries: 140 years since the establishment of the brewing industry in the country, 65 years of brewing science in Bulgaria and 30 years since the establishment of the UBB. What are the most important messages you want to send?
Anniversaries always inspire events, communication and new horizons in the development of brewing and beer. Brewing in Bulgaria is an amazing industry. 140 year ago it arrived and became a culture corridor that connected Bulgaria with Europe and modernity. Today, over 160 brands are produced in Bulgaria. Their range, creative marketing, investments in innovative facilities, green and social development define the Bulgarian brewing industry.
In its 30-year history, the UBB has realised a number of projects for sustainable development and growth. Under its leadership, good practices for transparency, responsibility, sustainability became core values for the industry. The UBB is the only Bulgarian organisation with a programme for social responsibility with a wide range of topics and initiatives. According to a recent EU survey, in 2021 Bulgarian brewers have the second highest reputation among their compatriots. This is a valuable recognition for their achievements, based on the high quality of their product, economic and social contribution, and responsibility as employers and producers.
The contribution of Bulgarian scientists is also crucial for the development of beer category and beer technology. In the past 2 years and during a pandemic, projects for improvement of healthy ingredients in beer were realised. They are also working on an innovative, and possibly unique for Europe, research on RNK identification of the metagenome of microorganisms in beer. The results are only a part of the important achievements of Bulgarian brewing scientists. In the past 10 years they have performed about 75 surveys and have published the results in over 85 scientific papers.
How is Bulgarian brewing industry developing and where is Bulgaria on the European beer map? How did the pandemic affect the sector?
Since 2007, the Union of Brewers in Bulgaria is a member of Brussels-based The Brewers of Europe, which unites 30 national associations representing over 11,000 small, middle and micro beer producers. For several years now the sector's priority has been the BREWING GREEN engagement, focused on green practices, circle economy and progress on the Green Deal goals.
Recently, The Brewers of Europe published a report on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector in the EU and the UK. It is hardly a surprise that in all European countries periodic lockdowns affected significantly beer sales in restaurants, bars, cafés. However, beer sales in stores are increasing. In 2020, the EU beer market contracted with 9%, causing a drop in paid excise duties, VAT and social security payment, loss of jobs, reduced added value of production and supply of beer, etc. The report's analysis shows that the field's recovery is uncertain. It will be hardly possible without government support before the end of 2022.
Still, the brewing industry in the EU and Bulgaria continues to develop. According to surveys, beer is Bulgaria's favourite beverage, second only to bottled water. In 2020, Bulgarians drank beer as often as in 2019, a clear indication that they are loyal consumers. Most breweries continue their investment and other projects focused on innovation and implementation of green practices to optimise the used resources and protect the environment. In the past 3 years the combined capital investment of Bulgarian breweries exceeded 65 million euro.
We all know that Bulgarians love gathering "for a beer." What makes the beer a social drink?
Recent surveys show that drinking beer with friends inspires positive emotions and makes us happy and satisfied. After all, humanity has enjoyed beer as a community for 8 millennia. Archaeological evidence from places like modern Israel, Turkey, Egypt and even Bulgaria shows that alcohol was important for the social life of early societies.
We should be grateful to our forefathers that they have discovered the magic that turns the grain of barley into a foamy, amber-coloured drink. Tellingly, the name of one of the oldest types of beer, ale, comes from the Old English word ealu, or magic. The Bulgarian word for yeast, maya, is derived from the Greek word magia, magic. This is why when drinking beer with friends or enjoying it in a modern beer bar, we continue this millennia-old tradition of magical connection between cultures and building communities and even states.
Annual national surveys of Bulgarian attitudes towards beer confirm this – 55% of Bulgarians drink beer at least once in a week, and 65% – at least once in a month.
In such a dynamic environment, what is the future of Bulgarian brewers in 2021?
In early June, The Brewers of Europe organised the 3rd BrewUp forum dedicated to recovery, sustainability and innovation in Europe post-Covid-19. The forum gathered over 2,000 participants and 50 speakers in 20 hybrid panels who discussed new ideas for a more sustainable, innovative, responsible and diverse brewing industry. Dozens of participants from Bulgaria took part, including politicians from the European Parliament and the European Commission.
The Union of Bulgarian Brewers has started the implementation of the engagement of European beer producers for environmental sustainability and circle economy. It activated the Green Beer Academy with interesting initiatives that will benefit the industry and will have a direct environmental impact. The first event from the campaign is the Forum for Sustainable Development of Bulgarian Beer Industry this June. It set the priorities in the field for the next 3 years.
This October, Sofia will become European Beer Capital for 2 days to celebrate the above-mentioned anniversaries. We expect and we hope that the pandemic situation will allow the presence of representatives of The Brewers of Europe and all EU national beer associations. The meeting will be an excellent occasion to discuss the results from the first 9 months of 2021 and to delineate the current trends in overcoming the pandemic crisis. Until then, we hope for a beautiful summer with Olympic, football and festival occasions to say "Cheers!" with a glass of beer in a happy mood! However, do not forget that beer can bring joy only when you "Drink with pleasure and measure"!
Sofia, 16 Bacho Kiro St
phone: +359 2 989 40 24