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Exciting time for Western beer exporters, Chinese consumers developing a taste for imported beer

The Chinese domestic beer market is starting to face a problem. Local beer production in the first eight months of 2015 declined 6.12% year-on-year but import volume rose 65.7% year-on-year. Among the reasons for higher beer import is the strength of the renminbi versus the euro, making imports cheaper, zero taxation on imported beer and the shifting taste to more sophisticated, higher quality imported beer as evidenced by the craft movement.

Imported beef consumption accounted for less than 1% of volume in 2014 but the figure is set to rise. The average price of imported beer is falling, which means more lower price imported beer is flooding the Chinese market.

First nine months 2013 2014 2015
USD/Litre 1.26 1.19 1.07
Volume (yoy %) 90.79 64.97
Value (yoy %) 79.78 48.59

Local Chinese companies are jumping into the bandwagon. COFCO Group said it will aggressively promote imported beer in China. The food and beverage giant is already bringing the German DAB, Bitburger and  Benediktiner Weissbier into the country. The Netherlands and Spain are fast becoming the preferred choice.

First nine months (% of volume) 2013 2014 2015
Germany 61.14 54.35 44.04
Netherlands 3.24 17.20 22.24
Spain 1.12 2.90 4.76
Subtotal 65.50 74.46 71.05
Source: China Customs

Wine distributors in China are expected to be changing their emphasis and will now distribute more beer instead of wine. Wine is feeling the heat of the government anti-extravagance crackdown but not so for beer, which is still a cheap drink. Now is definitely an exiting time for Western beer exporters. Expect to see more varieties of beer including craft beer in the local hypermarkets or in the pubs and bars near you.

A list of expensive imported beers at the 93rd Autumn China Food&Drinks Fair·Nanjing
– Schorschbock 48% 330ml – RMB9,999 (USD1,577) per bottle
– Snake Venom 67.5% 330ml – RMB2,600 per bottle


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