Beer giants target China

09 April 2012

BEIJING: Carlsberg, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors are among the brand owners in the beer category seeking to exploit the rapid growth being experienced in China.

Stephen Maher, the national CEO for Carlsberg, told the China Daily that consumers in the country drink 43.8m kilolitres of beer per year, around a quarter of the global total.

Carlsberg currently works with several indigenous players like Dali, Wusu and Xixia. "Local brands and partners have helped establish a firm base for Carlsberg and provided better consumer insight," Maher said.

The Danish organisation has also launched Carlsberg Chill and Light, developed specifically for China, where many drinkers find its flagship brand, as is the case for most European beers, too bitter.

"It is a challenge and an opportunity, as we have to be constantly on our toes and come up with new brands that can connect with the aspirations of consumers," said Maher.

The premium segment, in particular, is anticipated to become a vital area for the beer sector. Anheuser-Busch InBev has attempted to tap this trend with the roll out of Stella Artois.

Wang Renrong, vice president in Asia Pacific for Anheuser-Busch InBev, predicted China is likely to generate between 30% and 50% of the industry's growth worldwide going forward,

The Belgian brewer also sells Beck's, Budweiser, Corona and Harbin in China, which yields roughly 13% of its overall revenues. "We hope the figure will be bigger, as we see huge potential here," Wang said.

Molson Coors recently reported that its Coors Light brand has seen a compound annual growth rate of 20% for three successive years.

"We still have some issues to address, but looking ahead, we will be taking advantage of expected growth in the premium and mass premium … to deliver a broader range of SKUs," said Peter Swinburn, CEO of Molson Coors.

Official figures show China's beer output reached 48.99m kilolitres in 2011, measured against 44.83m kilolitres in 2010 and 42.36m kilolitres in 2009.

In financial terms, Euromonitor, the insights provider, has estimated that the Chinese beer market will be worth RMB457.9bn in 2014, versus RMB305.3bn in 2009.

Among China's domestic enterprises, Beijing Yanjing – the only major local operator yet to form an alliance with a foreign counterpart – has set the goal of becoming one of the six biggest global brewers by 2015.

Data sourced from China Daily/Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff