Beer is the preferred alcoholic beverage in Panama, with its production having grown by 5.1% (above the average of 2% of the rest of Latin America) in 2011, reported Capital.com.pa.
The market is worth more than $390 million a year and is controlled by two large companies: Cervecería Nacional, a subsidiary of SABMiller, and Cervecería Barú- Panamá, under the control of Heineken NV. Last year they produced 247.2 million liters of beer, 5.1% more than in 2010, significantly higher than seco (6 million liters) and rum (7.2 million liters), according to data supplied by the Controller General.
A study by market intelligence firm Nielsen found that in 2011 the per capita expenditure of Panamanians in this frothy drink was $74.1, not including bars and restaurants. Per capita consumption increased from 77 to 80 liters.
Two Panamanian market characteristics that give it an advantage is the variety of brands, about ten, much higher than those offered in other countries, including Costa Rica (8 brands) - and its low prices: $1.60 for a liter of beer, while the average price in the region is $2.31, according to the study.
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Two of the largest breweries in the world have been competing for the Panamanian beer market, since the purchase of the two local breweries 10 years ago.
An article in Panamaamerica.com reports that statements from Cervecería Nacional, a subsidiary of SABMiller, reveal that "in 2001 they controlled 80% of a market of 3 million people .
Multimillion dollar investments improving production plants and advertisements are showing excellent results.
Between 2006 and 2010, beer production increased by 53 million liters annually. In the first 7 months of 2010, 131.5 million liters of beer were produced which means on average each Panamanian adult drinks 9.5 liters of beer per month.
The evolution of the Panamanian economy brings changes in consumption patterns which favor imported wine and premium liquors.
Figures from the Comptroller General of the Republic up until August reveal that local production of alcoholic beverages stood at 176.8 million liters, 2.2 % less than the 180.2 million reported in the same period in 2012.
Beer sales in the first six months of the year reached 128 million liters, 46% more than in the same period in 2012.
Elperiodico.com.gt reports that "Guatemala is the fastest growing country in the American brewing industry, explains Jean Jereissati, director of AmBev Hila-ex".