The Chinese Elephant in the Brewery

I’ve been thinking a lot about the largest beer-producing country in the world of late. In case you are unaware, that’s China, which now brews over twice as much beer as the number two producer, the United States.  Then a release from the research firm Mintel arrives in my in-box and the numbers set me reeling.

What kind of numbers, you ask? This kind:

  • China’s beer market grew by 29% in volume terms in the five years to 2011;
  • The market also grew 63% in value terms over the same period;
  • This resulted in a total volume of 50 billion liters (426 million barrels) of beer consumption in 2011;
  • Which meant that year-on-year market growth for beer in 2011 was 13%!

And while I’ve thus far been able to unearth little about craft beer in China, consider this quote from Mintel’s director of China research,  Matthew Crabbe (emphasis mine): “While the market is booming, brewers need to compete more cleverly than ever before in order to engage with key consumer groups in China who will be key purchasers in the coming years, including the youth and women’s markets, as well as connoisseur drinkers of premium beers. The recent drop in growth of wine and spirits sales could leave room open for high-end ‘snob-brews’ to find new interest.

Mark my words, you’re going to be hearing a lot more about beer in China in the coming months and years.

One Reply to “The Chinese Elephant in the Brewery”

  1. As a good-beer-loving American, I am more than slightly alarmed by the trend. If the Chinese develop a taste for good imports, their market is so huge they could easily attract the eye of European breweries. When I was in Belgium last year, the brewers there mentioned that they were already sending some beer to China. Orval and Cantillon have resisted, honoring old contracts with early fans in North America, but the euro has a loud voice.

    We may one day have to cry in our domestic beers, recalling a time when you could pick up a bottle of gueuze for a paltry ten bucks.

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