“Strong top line momentum continued in 2022 despite cost pressure and intensified competition in some categories. Our profitability was hit by the cost inflation and a reduction in our wholesalers’ inventory toward the end of the year. In 2023, we will work on balancing sales-in and sales-out while re-establishing the per hectoliter profitability by category. “
SVP South Europe and GM Italy
Volume in 2022 showed a 21% increase, while net revenue increased by 16%. Organic volume increased by 15% and net revenue by 10%. The lower growth in net revenue compared to volume is caused by higher growth in carbonated soft drinks with lower revenue per hectoliter than in beer.
EBIT amounted to DKK 157 million in 2022, which were DKK 85 million lower than in 2021. The EBIT margin went down by 9.1 percentage points from 20.7% in 2021 to 11.6% in 2022. The weak development in earnings was caused by input price inflation and the time lag until we increased our prices toward customers and the destocking at wholesalers in Italy from the end of Q3 2022 until the end of the year.
Development and initiatives in 2022
In 2022, the Italian business grew faster than the market in all the categories in which we are present in Italy, i.e., beer, carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks.
In Off-Trade, the Ceres brand significantly outperformed the market with close to double-digit growth in sell-out supported by a strong marketing push focusing on digital content and attraction of new consumers. The growth was also a result of a step change of in-store execution as well as an improvement of the sales force during the past two years. Finally, we launched Ceres Strong Ale in a new 50cl can with great success.
The LemonSoda brand also grew significantly faster than the underlying carbonated soft drinks market gaining significant market shares in the lemonade segment. The growth was supported by a new advertising campaign celebrating the “original Italian lemonade”. LemonSoda benefits from the stronger sales force and commercial focus on in-store execution. LemonSoda Zero, which is now accompanied by the newly launched OranSoda Zero, continues to grow significantly in the no sugar segment. The carbonated soft drinks sales were also supported by a warm summer in Italy in 2022.
In the high growth energy drinks market, Lemonsoda Energy Activator continues to gain market shares consolidating its positioning as number three in the market.
On-Trade sales showed a significant recovery in 2022 compared to the year before. The recovery was especially strong in the first quarter of the year, whereas the second half of the year slowed down as a result of the energy crisis, input price inflation and wholesalers destocking. Sales-out from our wholesalers to final point of consumption remain strong and higher than 2019.
In France, Royal Unibrew was capable of growing net revenue in a tough Off-Trade environment, hit by input price inflation and reinforced competition in the energy drinks category. The strategy of entering the convenience store distribution channel with our products works well, and we are ahead of schedule for 2022.
The Lorina brand delivered the highest net revenue ever in both Off-Trade and convenience. Lorina is now the most premium brand in the clear carbonated soft drinks category (not only in the lemonade category) as a result of strong execution of our price/pack strategy. Small packaging formats (glass and cans) contributed strongly to the growth. Likewise, the reinforced sales structure contributed to growth by adding new customers in the convenience channel, especially bakeries.
Crazy Tiger, our French brand of energy drinks, also sat a new record in 2022: All-time high net revenue based on record high weighted distribution of 98% of all Off-Trade outlets.