Japanese brewers raising Asian output

Thursday, Aug 22, 2013 17:40

Kojiro Sekine

TOKYO — Major Japanese beer brewers are stepping up production in other Asian countries at a time when the already enormous Asian beer market continues to grow.

Beer consumption in Asia, where European brewers are already active, accounts for more than one-third of total global consumption. Japanese breweries are hoping their reputation for high-quality beer will give them an edge in their efforts to increase their Asian market share.

This month, Kirin Holdings Co. started consignment production of its popular Kirin Ichiban brand at a Thai factory of the Philippines' San Miguel Corp., in which Kirin has invested. Kirin intends to promote the brand as a high-quality beer in local restaurants and other places.

Based on results, it may market the beer in Vietnam and Indonesia, among other countries.

Sapporo Holdings Ltd. started to operate a brewery in Vietnam in 2011.

The company intends to strengthen its sales in neighbouring countries and increase its annual Vietnam production from the current 40,000 kilolitres to 100,000 kilolitres in 2014.

Sapporo also plans to start consignment production of Sapporo Premium, the company's international flagship brand, in Taiwan and Australia.

Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. is also producing beer in other Asian countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia.

These companies set up production bases in these countries because Asia has become the world's largest beer market, and consumption is rapidly growing. According to Kirin, beer consumption in Asia accounts for about 35 per cent of the global total. In 2011, beer consumption in Asia, excluding Japan, grew nearly 10 per cent year on year.

Consumption is growing especially fast in China and Vietnam, which have seen year-on-year double-digit growth for several years. In 2011, consumption in Vietnam reached 2.79 million kilolitres, an amount equivalent to about half of Japan's consumption.

Improvement in living standards in Asian countries is expected to bring business opportunities to Japanese makers. "The number of consumers who want high-quality beer are increasing in tandem with economic growth," according to an official at a major Japanese brewer.

Major European brewers such as Carlsberg and Heineken already have high market shares in other Asian countries. Whether Japanese breweries will be able to penetrate these markets will depend on their being able to take advantage of their sales networks and channels expanded through corporate mergers and acquisitions. — The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

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