Off-trade On-trade

2020 on-trade share of beer halved

Ireland’s Covid-19 Lockdowns were by far the longest in Europe for pubs, bars and restaurants according to Drinks Ireland's Annual Review for 2020/2021, published recently.


August’s bar sales volumes were down 27.6% on those of August 2019 while sales values were down 26.4%.

The share of the beer market sold in hospitality businesses fell in 2020 from around 60% in 2019 to less than 30% in 2020.

The Review shows that the share of the beer market sold in hospitality businesses fell in 2020 from around 60% in 2019 to less than 30% in 2020.

Nevertheless, the drinks industry showed remarkable resilience, with companies producing hand-sanitizer and working to help shuttered bars and restaurants in the early stages of the pandemic, working together to ensure the safe reopening of the hospitality sector when it was permitted.
The 2020/2021 Annual Review also shows:

  • that periods of global on-trade closure and Global Travel Retail over the last two years – as well as restrictions in supply to off-trade channels in some markets – saw overall alcohol consumption decline by 6% worldwide in 2020 and by 6.6% here in Ireland
  • that the Irish drinks industry immediately joined the national effort to respond to the Covid-19 crisis in many positive ways including through producing hand-sanitizers (or producing alcohol for same) and making donations to support unemployed bar workers and charities working with more vulnerable groups in our society
  • that Irish brewers, distillers and wine importers extended credit lines to support customers in the on-trade and when product went out-of-date during the repeated Lockdowns, in a massive logistical undertaking, collected beer and cider from 7,000 outlets across the country and disposed of it in an environmentally-friendly manner at no cost to the pubs
  • that Government supports to help the hospitality sector with cashflow – to assist exporters re-enter 140 foreign markets worth €1.45 billion and encourage domestic tourists to visit brewery and distillery visitor centres – were vital.


The Review highlights the fact that beer remains Ireland’s favourite alcoholic beverage but that the closure of the hospitality sector saw beer sales decline by 17.3% in Ireland from €305 million to €254 million with the share of beer sold in hospitality businesses down from 60% in 2019 to just 29.7% in 2020.

“This decrease in total beer sales has resulted in a fall in production by 13% in 2020,” states the Review which also points out that the lockdowns impacted on types of beer that were sold in 2020.

Stout sales typically make up around 30% of overall beer sales but in 2020 stout made up just 25% of beer’s market share. Lager was the main beneficiary of this, increasing its market share from 63% in 2019 to 69% in 2020. Ale’s share of the beer market went down from 6% in 2019 to 4% in 2020. Non-alcoholic beer had a fractional increase in its market share of 0.1%.

“The most dramatic movement in sales channels was for ale and stout,” states the report, “In 2019 80% of stouts and ales were sold in the hospitality sector. In 2020, only 43% of those variants were sold in the on-trade sector.”


Wine is Ireland’s second-favourite alcoholic drink with sales rising due to wine’s association with home consumption coupled with the hospitality sector Lockdowns.

As a result, wine sales were up 12%, increasing its share of the alcohol market by five percentage points to 32% in 2020 with off-sales up 28%.

As a result, off-trade wine sales were responsible for 95% of all wine sales last year while the on-trade took in the remaining 5%. In 2019 the on-trade had a 17% share.

With 25.8% of the wine market here, Chile tops the favourite wine country of origin table followed by Spain with 15.4% and Australia with 13.8%.

Rosé’s share of the overall wine market grew to 7% doubling its share since 2016.

At 48%, white wine dominates with red at 45%.



Sales of spirits, the country’s third-favourite category of alcoholic drink, dropped by 4.8% overall while spirits exports dropped 16% in value. However domestic consumption of Irish Cream Liqueur saw a 26.5% jump and sales of Scotch were up by 9.9%.

The Review observes, “Vodka and Tequila however did less well registering, what we believe to be temporary, decreases of -10.2% and -30.4% respectively. The gin and Irish gin category registered its first decline in growth since 2015. These fluctuations can be placed at the door of Covid-19 and the restrictions in place in the on-trade, a key consumer channel for the category.

February 2020 saw the 12-month rolling total for Irish whiskey’s global sales break the 12 million case-mark. Thanks to Covid, however, the calendar year 2020 saw 11.4 million cases sold. The whiskey industry purchased 270,000 used American Oak barrels from the US whiskey industry in 2020.

Indeed the US is also Irish whiskey’s biggest export market, being responsible for 44% of such exports while the EU comes in second place with 27%.

“Imports of US whiskey and Bourbon into Ireland fell for the third year running, down a massive 39.5% on the previous year. Much if not all of this is due to the EU’s rebalancing tariffs of 25% applied (since July 2018) in retaliation for US tariffs on European steel and aluminium products.”

The Review also points out that, “In July 2021 these tariffs were due to automatically rise to 50%. This automatic doubling was unilaterally postponed by the EU for six months to facilitate further negotiations.

“At the end of October 2021 agreement was reached between both sides which should see the lifting of tariffs by both sides by the end of the year.”

The on-trade was responsible for just 12% of spirits sales in 2020 by volume but 35.3% by value.

According to the Review, spirits contributed €373.3 million or just over 31% to the excise duty collected by the Irish State.


Ireland’s fourth-favourite drink, cider, saw sales hit hard by the closure of pubs, down by 11.3% and its share of the alcohol market fall from 7.4% in 2019 to 6.9% in 2020.

Cider consumption volumes dropped 11.4% in 2020 to 56 million litres from 63.2 million litres in 2019. With Lockdowns, hospitality’s share of the cider market stood at just 16% last year compared to its 45% share in 2019.

Cider exports, too, suffered with a decline of 2.7% to €58.2 million from €60.9 million the previous year.

The Review puts last year’s overall alcohol consumption share by category at:

Beer: 38.9%

Wine: 32.2%

Spirits: 22.3%

Cider: 6.6%.

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