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Beer sales drop in economic slowdown & brand inroads


Some believe there is nothing finer than swigging barely-chilled Yanjing beer straight from the bottle, sat on a stool on a Beijing side street, eating skewers of barbecued mutton of questionable origin.


Not all Chinese consumers agree. Sales of Yanjing, along with those of other domestic brewers, are under pressure as the economy slows and foreign brands make inroads.


Beer sales in China dropped 8 percent by volume in the first half of 2015 from a year earlier, a fall that was blamed on the state of the economy but also unseasonable weather.


Sales are likely to return to moderate growth, but the industry trends of more consolidation and more attempts to shift upmarket to protect margins are likely to continue, according to FT Confidential Research, a research service from the Financial Times.

英国《金融时报》旗下研究服务部门“投资参考”(FT Confidential Research)认为,啤酒销量可能将恢复至温和增长,但更多整合以及更多尝试转向高端市场以保护利润率的行业趋势可能将延续。

Yanjing faces a greater challenge than market leader Tsingtao. According to a recent FT Confidential Research survey of 1,000 beer drinkers across the country, Yanjing was the fifth most popular brand, cited by 15.9 percent of respondents as one of the two beer brands that they most often purchase. It was well behind Tsingtao, which was cited by 57 percent of respondents.

比起市场领先者青岛啤酒(Tsingtao Brewery),燕京啤酒面临的挑战更大。投资参考近期对全国1000名啤酒爱好者进行的调查显示,燕京啤酒在最受欢迎的品牌中位列第五,其中15.9%的受访者称燕京啤酒是他们最常购买的两种啤酒品牌之一。其受欢迎程度远落后于青岛啤酒,后者的这一受访者比例达到57%。

Yanjing isn't helped by its limited geographic reach: it's a Beijing stalwart, deriving 25 percent of its sales from the capital, though the company is trying to expand its presence by targeting rural areas.


But Yanjing is also a popular beer with low income groups in a market of changing and increasingly sophisticated tastes. It lags behind rivals offering more mid-priced to premium beer to offset falling margins. Tsingtao's peach beer comes in a shocking pink can aimed at a female audience, while Yanjing's Party beer promises to "put you in a happy state of mind".


The demand for better beer is certainly there: the FTCR survey found that 58 percent of respondents usually pay more than Rmb6 ($0.95) for a 330ml bottle of suds, a level considered mid-range and above by brewers.


But even market leaders Tsingtao and CR Snow, whose mid-priced and premium beer sales account for 40 percent and 45 percent of total sales, face a challenge from the rapid growth of imported brands. Domestic beer volume sales may have fallen in the first half but those of imported beer rose 63 percent, continuing the rapid growth of recent years as import costs tumble and China's army of nightclubbers multiplies.

但即便作为市场领先者的青岛啤酒和华润雪花啤酒(CR Snow)——他们的中等价位及高端啤酒的销量分别占到总销量的40%和45%——也面临进口品牌快速增长带来的挑战。上半年国产啤酒的销量出现下滑,但进口啤酒销量上升了63%,继续保持了近年来的快速增长势头,原因包括进口成本大大降低以及国内夜店数量大增。

Imports account for just 1 percent of total overall consumption but they are likely to continue growing at a rapid clip. Domestic beer sales growth may return to the low single digits should the forces blamed for this year's falls prove temporary, but domestic brands will come under increasing pressure from these imports.


Industry woes are also likely to keep driving consolidation. Tsingtao is buying Suntory's share in an eastern China joint venture to try to turn around sales there after they fell 15.2 percent in the first half.


AB InBev's purchase of SABMiller may prove the exception: SABMiller owns a 49 percent stake in CR Snow and the tie-up would result in combined market share of around 40 percent. That's likely to be a six-pack too many for Beijing's antitrust regulators.

百威英博(AB InBev)收购SABMiller可能是一个例外:SABMiller持有华润雪花啤酒49%的股份,而这一联姻将使得合并后的市场份额达到40%左右。对于北京的反垄断监管机构而言,这样的市场份额可能过大了。


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