Japan's Sapporo Breweries is returning to China next month after a nine-year absence. The company will target China's premium beer market and will be distributed by the Chinese arm of the world's largest beer company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev).
Sapporo recently signed a sole agency contract with AB InBev to distribute its Premium Beer and other upmarket labels in China.
The beverage will be produced at Sapporo's Vietnam brewery, the company aims at selling 1 million cases by 2022.
Sapporo withdrew from the China market in 2009 after failing to gain market share through partnerships with local brewers who focused on selling their own brands.
China has the biggest beer market in the world, total consumption last year was 45.5 billion litres. Consumption growth has peaked off in 2013, last year's consumption represents a 10% drop from 2013 peak, according to data from British research group Euromonitor.
However, China’s premium beer market continues to do well thanks to the country’s fast growing middle class population.
Other Japanese brewers are also targeting this market. Asahi started to distribute its Super Dry beer in China last year, lifting sales of the Asahi brand by 18%. At the end of last year, Kirin Brewery started exporting its Grand Kirin line of craft beer to China.
Sapporo plans to sell its 330-ml bottles at about RMB 10 (USD 1.46) each, this compared to the standard price for beer in China at around RMB 5.
(the writer can be contacted at: DavidMa@thewinechronicle.com)