China has the world’s highest overall consumption, but leading brewers face an uphill struggle to find strong profits. Beer plays an increasingly important role in Chinese people’s lives. It’s the most popular drink ordered in restaurants and pubs.
Because beer isn’t suited for long-distance transportation, most foreign companies have established breweries in China and some have set up joint ventures with local companies, thus creating various sub-brands.
Domestic brews such as Tsingtao, Yanjing and Snow Beer have the largest market share, while foreign beers have been struggling to make their mark in China since the 1990s. China is a collection of regional markets with very few brewers able to operate at a truly national level. There are over 500 breweries, though more than half are unprofitable and almost half of the production capacity reportedly lies idle.
Carlsberg started to export beer to China in 1876. In late 1990s, Carlsberg had two breweries in China – Huizhou and Shanghai. The company acquired Huizhou Brewery of Guangdong province in 1995, which started to supply both the Chinese and Hong Kong market. The brewery is one of the best quality brewery of Carlsberg around the world.
In 2003, Carlsberg acquired the Kunming brewery and the Dali brewery in Yunnan province. At the time, the Dali brewery is the largest beer brewery in Yunnan. In 2004, Carlsberg became a major shareholder in Lhasa Brewery in the Tibet Autonomous Region. At 3,700 metres above sea level, Lhasa Brewery is believed to be the highest altitude brewery in the Carlsberg Group.
In 2008, Carlsberg sold its remaining interest in the Shanghai brewery to Tsingtao Brewery.
In August 2011, Carlsberg announced to form a new joint venture with Chongqing Brewery and Chongqing Light Textile Holding. Chongqing Light Textile Holding is a major shareholder of Chongqing Brewery. The joint venture, to be called Chongqing Xinghui Investment Co., Ltd, would operate 12 breweries in China in Chongqing, Sichuan, Guangxi, Guizhou and Hunan. Chongqing Brewery would contribute five breweries and Chongqing Light Textile Holding would contribute seven breweries into the joint venture. Carlsberg would inject 160 million Danish crowns (about US$30.90 million) and have a 30% interest in the venture.
Snow beer (simplified Chinese: 雪花啤酒, literally Snowflake beer) is a lager beer from China. It is brewed by CR Snow, a joint venture between SABMiller and China Resources Enterprises. As of 2008, it is the best selling beer brand in the world, with annual sales of 61 million hectoliters, despite largely being sold only in China. The beer started in 1993, produced by three breweries. As of 2011, this had expanded to 80 breweries in China.
Tsingtao Brewery Co.,Ltd. (simplified Chinese: 青岛啤酒厂; traditional Chinese: 青島啤酒廠; pinyin: Qīngdǎo píjiǔchǎng) is China’s second largest brewery. It was founded in 1903 by German settlers and now claims about 15% of domestic market share. The beer is produced in Qingdao in Shandong province
1. China Beer Market Insights 2013, October 17, 2013, https://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/10/prweb11242516.htm
2. Asia overtakes Europe, in beer terms, August 17, 2010, https://www.economist.com/node/16839104
3. Daxue Consulting China Market Research