Beer remains by far the most popular alcoholic beverage in Costa Rica and is widely enjoyed by Costa Ricans and tourists alike.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number:
Post: San Jose
New opportunities for U.S. beer exports to Costa Rica
Kelly Stange, Agricultural Attaché
Marie Anselm, FAS Intern
The value of U.S. beer exports to Costa Rica increased 418.89 percent from 2009 and 2011 and 96.60
percent between 2010 and 2011 according to Global Trade Atlas (GTA). U.S. beers continue to gain
visibility in the Costa Rican market, a country where beer is the preferred alcoholic beverage. New
opportunities for U.S. beer exports are highly promising.
Executive Summary: Costs Rica is a beer-loving country with beer being the national alcoholic
beverage of choice for Costa Ricans. Beer is popular across all population segments of Costa Rica’s
population and is consumed widely by visiting tourists each year as well. Though competitive, the
market for beer is open for expansion and the import of U.S. beers is growing at an impressive rate.
Price is extremely important for the typical buyer of beer, but a growing number of Costa Ricans are
drawn to quality and a niche for specialty imports is beginning to develop. This report outlines
important aspects of the market for beer in Costa Rica using data from Global Trade Atlas.
Beer remains by far the most popular alcoholic beverage in Costa Rica and is widely enjoyed by Costa
Ricans and tourists alike. Beer is consumed nationwide in bars, restaurants, and hotels, but the majority
of beer consumed in the country is purchased at supermarkets or small retail outlets. When purchasing
beer from retail stores Costa Rican consumers favor bottles over cans and 6-packs over single units.
The preference for packs of beer is mostly economical; price is the single most important selling point
for many beer-drinkers and purchasing beer in this format offers a discounted price. However, because
of price, many imported beers are sold per unit as opposed to in packs. For those consumers whose
tastes are driven largely by price, brand is usually less important than cost. These consumers are open
to sampling new beers, domestic or imported, if they are offered at a bargain price; this group of
clientele tends to be middle to lower-income consumers.
For those customers unconcerned with cost, largely the upper middle and middle classes, a small but
growing niche exists for premium beers from abroad. The greatest variety of foreign beer can be found
in larger supermarket chains or in specialty bars (such as themed bars like Irish Pubs or upper-scale
restaurants) or establishments aimed at tourists. Tourists, of whom there are approximately 2 million
annually coming to Costa Rica, are responsible for driving part of the demand for imported beers.
Tourism is concentrated in coastal areas but most arrive to Costa Rica in San Jose where the majority of
bars and restaurants are located in the country.
Lagers and light beers are the preferred brews of Costa Ricans and are the most commonly stocked and
sold beer varieties. Imperial, the country's most popular brew amongst nationals and tourists, is a light
lager beer. Imperial is manufactured and distributed by Florida Ice & Farm Company, which has a
monopoly over the domestic manufacturing and distribution of beer. Pilsen, another light beer, and
Bavaria, a darker brew, are the two other significant domestic lines of beer produced by Florida. Florida
also owns exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute Heineken beer, as well as to import and
distribute Toña (Nicaragua) and Corona (Mexico). Of imported beers in the country, Corona is the top-
selling. Budweiser is the most commonly sold U.S. beer import, with Coors gaining popularity as well.
Importers consulted for this report expressed interest in enhancing their portfolios of American beers.
Price point is a major factor for importers wishing to launch new brands into the Costa Rican market.
Exporters wishing to enter the market would do best to begin with lower-priced beers, which is true of
both standard brews and microbrews. Costa Ricans are most familiar with lighter beers, but exporters
wishing to introduce darker or specialty brews have the opportunity to cater to those consumers looking
for unique products and would do best to enter high-end supermarkets. In terms of packaging, both
canned and bottled beer imports are commonly sold by individual units, but canned beers that could be
offered in packs smaller than a 24-case (as is now often the standard for imported American beer) would
be welcomed by consumers looking for value.
As domestic beers are well-established in Costa Rica, it is encouraging that imports of beer have grown,
by value, 75.18 percent from 2009 to 2011 and 53.05 percent from 2010 to 2011. In total the market for
imported beer in Costa Rica in 2011 was valued at $6.93 million. These figures are encouraging for
exporters wishing to enter the expanding market for beer in Costa Rica.
American exports of beer to Costa Rica exhibit high potential for continued growth. In addition to best-
sellers Budweiser and Coors, many U.S. beers are already registered and distributed throughout Costa
Rica. These beers include Samuel Adams, Old Milwaukee, North Coast, Miller, and Kirin. Some
American beers are imported by brokers or brand representatives in the United States while other brands
have distributors directly in the country. The promotion of these U.S. beers in Costa Rica has boosted
U.S. beer exports 418.89 percent by value from 2009 to 2011 and put the total value of U.S. beer
exports to Costa Rica in 2011 to $1.79 million. This growth raised the market share of the United States
for imported beer (by value) from 8.73 percent in 2009 to 25.87 percent in 2011, which was the largest
amount of growth for any country importing beer to Costa Rica. Such expansion has made the United
States the second largest exporter of beer to Costa Rica, following Mexico.
In 2011 Mexico held 38.67 percent of the market share for imported beers by value and remained the
prime competitor of the United States for this market. In addition to Corona, popular Mexican beers in
Costa Rica include Carta Blanca, Sol, Tecate, and Dos Equis (XX). However, while Mexico is the top
exporter of beer to Costa Rica, its market share fell 24.27 percent between 2009 and 2011. The third
largest importer of beer to Costa Rica is Nicaragua, whose best-selling exported beer is Toña; in 2011
Nicaragua captured 17.78 percent of the total market share of imported beer. While the U.S. does face
competition in the market for imported beer, overall American exports have expanded greatly and have
the potential to continue to outpace the growth of competitors.