HomeMarketsIndustrial Italian beer and microbreweries. Tax hurdles and growth opportunities

Industrial Italian beer and microbreweries. Tax hurdles and growth opportunities

The association of Italian beer producers AssoBirra has published its own Annual Report 2022 which describes the production scenario, between industries and microbreweries, i trends national market and import Export. (1)

The growth opportunities of the brewing chain Made in Italy however, they are held back by a paradoxical excise system. As well as, in the humble opinion of the writer, the lack of vision on the phenomenon zero-alcohol e low-alcohol.

1) Italian beer, an industrial and microbrewery history

The production of Italian beer began in the mid-1907th century, with the organization of the first 'Unione dei Fabbricanti di Birra', 'Association of Brewers and Malters', now AssoBirra, in Milan in 90. Industrial production grew rapidly, from the post-World War II period through the late 2s. Thanks to technological improvements, mergers and acquisitions by large breweries (Peroni, Pedavena-Dreher, Wuhrer), the investments that have accompanied the development of the national market. (XNUMX)


Fig. 1 – Overview of the Italian brewing sector in the period 2019-2022 (AssoBirra, 2022)

Craft breweries in Italy they started at the end of the 80s, thanks to the growing interest of consumers in short and local supply chains and the technological innovations that allowed the creation of micro-plants. Towards 2015, on the wave of success of craft beer in the USA and in continental Europe, they have also flourished in Italy i microbreweries, brewpubs e contract brewing. To the point of attracting the attention of large breweries, which have also begun to occupy this segment with various acquisitions.

2) Italian brewing chain

CERB – the Research Center for Beer Excellence, in Perugia – is the first research center dedicated to research and innovation in the brewing sector in Italy. The professor. Paolo Fantozzi, its founder, described the evolution of the brewing chain and Italian beer from various aspects. (3)

2.1) Barley cultivation in Italy

Barley crops in Italy they have been diversified in recent years, integrating barley crops for feed use (with a high protein content) with those for brewing use (with a lower level of protein).

A revolution for farmers which, in the supply of barley for the production of malt for 100% Italian beer, have improved the profitability of the crops of this cereal.

2.2) Acquisitions

The big brands of Italian beer, over the decades, have been acquired by the giants that dominate the global market (Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Asahi the first four).

They remain Italian owned il leader Castello – Pedavena beer, the Forst – Menabrea group and the Messina beer (with the Birra dello Stretto and Birra Doc 15 brands), as well as numerous microbreweries.

2.3) Research and training

 on the brewing chain and beer has recorded great development in the Italian university, today in third place in Europe for the number of publications on the subject. The historic brewing school of Pedavena has been resurrected and has been followed by specialized and university training courses, with special degree courses and master dedicated, from Udine to Perugia.

Il "terroir" – in Italian beer as in oenology – is also the subject of studies (Carbone et al., 2021) which allowed to identify the cultivate Cascade as an ideal hop, to be grown in Italy, to offer its own and distinct sensory characteristics (for bitter taste and aroma) to cervogia Made in Italy. (4)

3) Excise duties on beer, the paradox of Italian taxation

Excise duties on alcoholic beverages are provided for in directives 92/83/EC, 92/84/EC and in directive (EU) 2020/262, implemented in Italy with Legislative Decree 504/1995 (Consolidated Act on Excise) and subsequent amendments. Production taxes and related exemptions apply to beer, wine, other fermented beverages, intermediate products, ethyl alcohol, collectively.

The paradox of beer, in Italian taxation, is the determination of the excise duty based on the saccharometric level (degree Plato) instead of the alcohol content, for each hectoliter of beverage at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (5,6,7,8).

The alcohol and alcoholic beverages are exempt from excise duty, inter alia, when they are used in the manufacture of:

– final products that do not contain alcohol,
– flavorings intended for the preparation of foods and soft drinks with an actual alcoholic strength <1,2% vol.

The 2022 Milleproroghe decree applied an almost invisible reduction to excise duty (0,67%, from €2,99 to 2,97 per degree-Plato per hectolitre. In addition to confirming the tax reductions for small Italian beer producers (-50% up to 10.000 hectoliters/year, – 30% up to 30.000, -20% up to 60.000 hectoliters per year) (10,11).

4) Italian beer zero-alcohol e low-alcoholthe untapped potential

'It is estimated (Future Market Insights data) that the world market for non-alcoholic beer is destined to double its value over ten years, going from around 18,6 billion euros to over 38,6 billion in 2032, growing at an annual rate by 7,8%. Abroad, the phenomenon has literally exploded'.

Non-alcoholic beers (< 1,2% alc. vol) – in addition to responding to the needs of responsible driving and working without alcohol – they are attracting the growing interest of consumers who are more attentive to weight control, abdominal swelling and health. (12) And they can boast, upon the occurrence of the relative conditions, of nutrition and health claims.

4.1) Nutrition and health claims

Il Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No 1924/06 prohibits the use of health claims in commercial information (and/or in any communication attributable to economic operators, including on social networks) relating to alcoholic beverages (> 1,2% alc. vol). Restricting the nutritional claims permitted on these beverages to only the words 'low alcohol content, 'low alcohol content'The'reduced calorie content'.

Alcohol content of 1,2% or less alc. vol. conversely, it allows the use of any in the EU nutrition claim e health claim, upon occurrence of the conditions for each of them established in the NHC regulation and in its implementation (EU regulation 432/12. See, for example, in Figure 2). Without neglecting the opportunity for research and innovation to produce functional non-alcoholic beers (e.g. by integrating arabinoxylans and other prebiotic fibers to be extracted by upcycling of the threshings).

Fig. 2 – Example of non-alcoholic beer with the addition of BCAAs suitable for reporting the nutrition claims 'high in protein', 'no sodium/salt', 'low in sugar', as well as some related health claims.

5) Provisional conclusions

The centuries-old tradition of Italian beer – combined with the international recognition of Made in Italy agribusiness, his "terroir" and attention to taste – could translate into added value by focusing attention on identity values ​​linked to the territories, such as the use of spring waters (e.g. Pedavena) and local ingredients (malt, hops), as well as the global boom in beers zero-alcohol low-alcohol (13,14)

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna


(1) AssoBirra. Annual Report 2022 https://www.assobirra.it/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/AnnualReport_2022.pdf

(2) Christian Garavaglia (2021). Industry evolution: Evidence from the Italian brewing industry. Competition & Change 0 (0): 1-21, https://doi.org/10.1177/10245294211007408

(3) Paolo Fantozzi (2017) The Italian Academic Research on Beer: Past, Present and Future. Ital. J. Food Sci. 29 (4): 565-581, https://doi.org/10.14674/IJFS-1054

(4) Coal et al. (2021). Tasting the Italian Terroir through Craft Beer: Quality and Sensory Assessment of Cascade Hops Grown in Central Italy and Derived Monovarietal Beers. Foods 10: 2085, https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10092085

(5) Directive 92/83/EEC, rrelated to the harmonization of the structures of excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages. http://data.europa.eu/eli/dir/1992/83/2022-01-01 Text consolidated on 1.1.22

(6) Directive 92/84 / EEC, on the approximation of the rates of excise duty on alcohol and alcoholic beverages http://data.europa.eu/eli/dir/1992/84/oj

(7) Directive (EU) 2020/262, establishing the general system of excise duties. http://data.europa.eu/eli/dir/2020/262/2022-04-26 Consolidated text as at 26.4.26

(8) Legislative Decree 504/1995. Consolidated text of legislative provisions concerning taxes on production and consumption and related penal and administrative sanctions https://www.normattiva.it/eli/stato/DECRETO_LEGISLATIVO/1995/10/26/504/CONSOLIDATED

(9) See d. lgs. no. 504/1994, articles 17 and 27.3, letters 'e', ​​f'

(10) ADM. Circular no. 8/2023. Legislative Decree No. 504/95. Alcoholic products, beer tax area. Redetermination of excise duty rates, normal and facilitated. https://www.adm.gov.it/portale/documents/20182/92292784/Circolare+8.2023.pdf/7e137240-ccd0-0ffb-1309-a6b967b16f41?version=1.1&t=1678186462553 Prot. 127929/RU. 7.3.23.

(11) Lollobrigida, reducing excise duties is useful for competitiveness. HANDLE. 18.5.23 https://www.ansa.it/canale_terraegusto/notizie/in_breve/2023/05/18/lollobrigida-ridurre-le-accise-e-utile-per-la-competitivita_80eae881-4b12-459c-a31f-e9c010eba92e.html

(12) Dario Dongo. Quality zero alcohol bubbles, the unexpected success on the UK market. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.1.20

(13) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Non-alcoholic beer, health and well-being. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 22.3.20

(14) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. Non-alcoholic beer, 15 products compared. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.9.22

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

Andrea Adelmo Della Penna
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Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

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