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Market Report: European Food and Beverage Trends

By: Steven Hanft, CONUSBAT, Germany
Posted: June 23, 2009

Be it through trade, political linkages, cultural-social or scientific evolutions, wars, or royalty, Europe’s identity as a continent has always been shaped by the interdependencies of its states. Today this interdependence is stronger than ever, and is mainly influenced by the European Union.

While harmonizing efforts of the European Union have, in many ways, prepared for an easier access, the cultural and political diversity of the European states is still a factor to consider when doing business in Europe. On the other hand, these elements contribute to the creativity and colorfulness of a densely populated continent. This article shares an insight on some traditional and modern facets of the food and beverage market in Europe.

Political, Economic and Demographic Facts

Europe’s population is about 730 million, which accounts for almost 12% of the world population. Of this, approximately 460 million (more than 60%) live in the 27 states of the European Union. The non-member states include Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Albania and some Balkan nations (see Figure 1Table 1).

The European Union has the world's largest economy, which is slightly bigger than that of the United States. The average share of domestic product per EU citizen is about $32,000; this value in the United States is about $43,000. Then again, there is a difference in GDPs between the EU member countries, especially with the Eastern European nations showing relatively lower values despite being emerging markets. However, when compared to Western EU states, the annual GDP growth is higher for many of the Eastern EU nations.

An Aging Population

Europe’s population is larger than that of the United States. However, unlike the latter, the birth rate in almost all European countries is on a decline. The consequences of declining birth rates is evident in Figure 2 and Figure 3, which depict age distribution for the years 2004 and 2050 in the EU-25 countries, i.e. countries that were member states before January 1, 2006 (the date of accession of Romania and Bulgaria). The data shows a dramatic shift towards an older, geriatric population, as a result of the reduction in birth rate (1.5 children/woman on average). However, the required birth rate necessary to maintain an existing population size is 2.1 children per couple.