The world’s leading region for beer consumption, Asia is, according to maltsters, a strategic source of growth where the thirst for hoppy brews – and, along with it, the demand for malt – is growing steadily.
After spending a few years in Singapore and now living in Shanghai, Richard Krystkowiak, Client Services Director at Sopexa China, walks us through this consumer trend that is strengthening on the continent.
According to Maleurop, in 2020, Asia could account for 40% of the world’s beer consumption. How do you explain the fact that Asia is today the world’s leading region for beer drinking?
I’m not at all surprised! Although wine has seen a real surge in recent years, whenever you go to a restaurant, your first instinct is to order a nice cold beer! In Thailand and Vietnam, cold water is often replaced by a local beer with a few ice cubes. These cheap, readily available beers quickly became a part of Asian drinking habits.
Consumption is so great that China, the largest producer of beer, is home to 4 of the world’s top 10 best-selling beer brands: Snow, Tsingtao, Harbin and Yanjing. The production of light beers is primarily targeted to the local market, which is estimated at over $40 billion, thus making it a mouthwatering opportunity for multinational brands.
Have you picked up on any new consumer trends?
In China, there are a large number of breweries fighting it out on the local market. Yet, with such stiff competition, they remain the minority. To stay in touch with the market, brands have to bring their consumers a true experience in order to demonstrate a type of singularity that will make them distinctive. With the market growing 7% in value every year, Chinese consumers are now ready to pay more for better quality beer that has more personality.
Consumers are increasingly demanding and are turning to stronger beers with a hint of fruit. Though we can see a boom in the number of Chinese brewers who are setting up higher quality microbreweries, local beers now have to contend with international brands like Corona, Leffe, Duvel and others.
What can brands leverage to make a name for themselves in China? What consumers can they target?
Though the interest in international brands is growing stronger, it is tough to rival local brands. The big brands are simply outpriced by cheaper local beers. By winning over millennials, who are thirsty for new discoveries and have greater purchasing power, more opportunities open up. Improving flavour, aromas and branding is essential in order to stand out and thus justify a higher price. The Belgians understood that quickly and have managed to break into the Asian market, for example with Hoegaarden white beers. Today, Asian consumers – like their European counterparts – want beer that offers them a unique experience, is visually attractive and has a strong brand identity.
Asian beer consumers are moving upscale, with quality and origin becoming increasingly important, meaning European beers have a good shot at making further inroads on this vast market.