Last Orders? Tough Times for the Humble Beer Mat
Small, beer-soaked and bedecked with all manner of slogans, the humble beer coaster has long been an essential part of a good pub or bar. But with its leading manufacturer now bankrupt, the cardboard institution may be heading for extinction.
For most of us, beer mats are just an insignificant piece of cardboard tucked under our glass of ale. But some have elevated the disposable coaster, which are a common sight in pubs in Britain and Germany, to a lofty status, considering it an art work, a collector's item, building material -- or even a piece of sporting equipment.
But now the economic crisis is threatening the beer mat -- and unnerving its fans. The world's biggest beer mat company, Katz Group, has declared itself bankrupt. Tucked away in Weisenbach in the south-west of Germany, Katz Group, which was founded as a sawmill in 1716, had been in the beer mat business since 1903. Katz International Coasters controlled around two-thirds of the European market and 97 percent of the US market.
Worried beer mat fans are asking themselves what the future holds. Over the decades, a whole scene has built up around the cardboard coasters. Some collectors travel to buy, exchange and admire at swap meets held across Germany. Others flaunt their collections on the Internet.
And despite its small surface area, the beer mat has been daubed with everything from political messages to adverts to saucy slogans. "A girl and a little glass of beer cures all woes," reads one, which features a beer mug-toting girl.
But times have changed. Beer consumption is on the wane and demand for beer mats is also weaker -- so weak, in fact, that the market leader has gone bankrupt.
However, it is hard to imagine that the writing is on the wall for the paper coasters yet. After all, the humble products have kept bars and tables clean for years -- not to mention the special place they occupy in the hearts of aficionados.
jas -- with wire reports
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