Greece: Industry, war looming between beer and soft drinks

Producers in conflict over change in legislation

30 April, 14:42

(ANSAmed) - ATHENS, APRIL 30 - On top of the problems Greece is already dealing with - a deep economic crisis and the fifth year of recession - now the country also runs the risk of a war breaking out between beer and soft drinks producers. The "casus belli" is the recent approval of a law by the Greek parliament.

This law says that beer producers will now be allowed to bottle soft drinks and mineral waters on the same production lines that are used to process and bottled beer.

For the moment, the Association of Greek Soft Drink Industries (SEVA) has not responded to the new law, though some of its members claim that legislations regarding the sector have been changed to benefit small factories and to make it easier for two multinationals active in the country to collaborate, one active in the production of beer and the other in the production of soft drinks.

It should be pointed out that the new law has been presented as a sort of addition to existing regulations instead of an amendment pushed by the development ministry meant to improve the business climate in the sector.

"Before it was approved, the new legislation was presented as a measure to support small beer factories. But That was only an excuse," the owner of a soft drink factory that performed well in the past years told newspaper Kathimerini.

According to several sources in the industry, rumours started some time ago, saying that beer multinational Carlsberg and soft drink giant PepsiCo would be close to working together.

Carlsberg would reportedly start to bottle the brands made by PepsiCo in Greece and in other countries, like Sweden.

Carlsberg already has a factory in Greece, in Sindos (on the outskirts of Thessaloniki), where it uses three production lines, one of them used for the local beer Mythos. PepsiCo - which has bought local soft drink producer Ivi - has two facilities in the country, one in Oinofyta (near Athens), where it makes soft drinks and fruit juices, and one in Loutraki (near Corinth), where the company bottles mineral water.

Still, whether Carlsberg and PepsiCo will continue with their alleged cooperation or not, the new legislation should support small beer makers who want to broaden their range of products.

Beer-producing company "Macedonia-Tracia", for example, which makes Vergina beer and is owned by Dimitris Politopoulos, wants to launch its own "mountain" tea brand, a cold herb tea. Another company, Chitos, which bottles mineral water and produces beer via its stake in Olimpica, has re-launched its famous Fix beer brand and is now also interested in making soft drinks. But Greece already has a small regional beer maker, Magnus Magister, which also produces soft drinks on the island of Rhodes.

"We would like to see industries treated equally. So we want producers of soft drinks to be allowed to use the same production lines to make beer," a SEVA spokesman told Kathimerini, adding that the question will probably be debated again after the elections of May 6. In fact, MP of the centre-right Nea Dimocratia party Costis Hadzidakis, who has introduced the new law, has express some reservations regarding the fact that it is the best possible, while a member of the socialist Pasok party, Costas Kartalis, has asked for the regulation to regard both beer and soft drink producers.



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