As we’ve detailed in numerous posts on this site, the large commodoty brewers in the U.S. are hurting, in terms of falling sales and fierce competition from local brands – at least in this country. Their response has been International consolidation and growth outside of the U.S.
There are numerous reasons for this, of course, but the biggest is the growth of the Asian market, specifically China, which is already the world’s largest beer market and continues to grow as their middle class – and expendable income – grows.
Many of the German brewers I know have long sought growth in Asian markets (and elsewhere) as even small brewers have formed partnerships, exported to or built facilities in the East – even as the German beer market shrinks. Many graduating brewmasters are also heading to Asia in search of work (where it is sometimes more common to pay a “professional” wage than it is in the U.S.).
The same motivation is pushing the U.S. “big” brewers to external expansion as well, who are using their new International clout to muscle their way to the forefront of growth in these emerging markets. AB InBev, for example, now has 35 production facilities in China alone, and accounts for a growing market share. To be sure, this trend is not limited to beer companies as other industries are also “saving” their brands by seeking a stake in Asian markets.
Bottom line is, a big picture pattern may be emerging here. As the commodity brewers seek the low hanging fruit of emerging markets, they may slowly be abandoning their mature markets…but I don’t think it will be too terribly long before those same craft competitors and wider consumer choices are nipping at their heels in these new markets as well.
And the beer wars continue…