The Chinese have emerged as the biggest consumers of beer in the world, chugging more than double the volume of their nearest rival, the US, according to a new market research report.
For the first time last year, beer consumption in China hit the 50 billion liter mark, says Mintel, growing 29 percent in volume in the five years leading up to 2011. In value terms, that translates to a 63 percent increase or 454 billion CNY (€57 billion) in 2011.
That compares to 24 billion liters of beer consumed in the US; 14 billion liters in Brazil; and 9 billion liters in both Russia and Germany.
As in India and other BRIC countries where people’s disposable incomes are on the rise, Chinese consumers are spending more on small pleasures and indulgences including wine and beer, the latter having become an important beverage for entertaining and socializing.
According to the report, for example, the top reason cited for drinking beer was for socializing with friends and family (73 percent).
Beer is the drink of choice when dining at banquets and parties among 62 percent of respondents and for entertaining guests in their homes (61 percent).
Chinese consumers are also increasingly reaching for a cold one to accompany a meal (44 percent), as an after-work drink with colleagues (43 percent) and as a tonic to unwind after a long day (33 percent).
The most popular brew among drinkers in China is draft beer, but palates also tend to favor more expensive, premium brands, analysts say.
Meanwhile, though winemakers have been aggressively targeting the affluent Chinese market where there’s an insatiable appetite for all things luxury-related, the Mintel report points out that the value growth of wine experienced a 12 percent drop in 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.
The International Wine Spirits Research group in the UK predicts that wine consumption in China will grow from 4 liters per capita a year to 4.4 in 2015. In Italy, meanwhile, wine consumption is 56.1 liters per capita a year.