Tag Archives: alcohol industry

Opportunities for beer in 2021 & beyond

Beer suffered quite heavily during 2020, primarily due to its reliance on the on-premise. Beer markets in Italy, the UK and Colombia were amongst those particularly hard hit due to lockdown restrictions. Traditional inbound tourism hubs continue to hurt. Some brewers also faced legislative issues, notably full bans on the sale of alcohol in South Africa and India, and a ban on domestic brewing in Mexico. Changes in consumer purchasing behaviour in the off-premise, such as a tendency to purchase multi-packs and less time spent browsing, meant some players had to adapt to new packaging offerings and/or new distribution channels as well. Overall, the industry will likely see an approximate 9% decline in beer consumption across 19 key markets (2019 to 2020). Amidst the challenges, however, there are bright spots:

Market recovery

IWSR research shows that some beer markets will emerge from 2020 relatively unscathed: beer proved remarkably resilient in Japan, for example, especially in the face of a strongly-advancing ready-to-drink (RTD) category. Although beer in China will see an approximately 7% loss in volume in 2020, the decline is not as bad as many feared it could be, primarily as restrictions had largely been lifted by the key summer months. Looking forward, developing markets will continue to provide growth opportunities for brewers. Even before Covid-19, many developed beer markets had stagnated in recent years. Key players have invested heavily in increasing their brewing capability and distribution networks across developing markets. Africa has been a particular focal point for investment, with new breweries opened in countries including Mozambique, Kenya and Ethiopia. In Asia, Heineken and Carlsberg have been very active in Vietnam and Cambodia. In 2019, Heineken enjoyed success with the launch of Heineken Silver in Vietnam, while Carlsberg’s relaunch of Huda was also well received. Of the leading markets, IWSR projects these two countries to be in the top ten growth markets between 2019 and 2024. The potential for beer growth in India is strong as well. AB InBev, for example, began brewing Budweiser in the market back in 2010. In January 2021, Kirin Holdings announced an investment of $30 million in New Delhi-based B9 Beverages, the maker of the Indian craft beer Bira. IWSR anticipates beer consumption in India to return to pre-Covid-19 levels by the end of 2023, continuing on its growth path from there.

Expanding beyond beer

As consumers moved to the at-home occasion, the trend for convenience has helped to shape purchasing behaviours. In markets such as the US, the ready-to-drink (RTD) category, which includes hard seltzers, has been taking share from beer. RTDs provide a growing opportunity for brewers to diversify their product portfolios. Indeed, Heineken entered the hard seltzer category in September 2020, with the launch of Pure Piraña in Mexico and New Zealand. In the US, Heineken partnered with AriZona to launch the AriZona SunRise Hard Seltzer in October 2020. AB InBev states that Bud Light Seltzer is their leading innovation in the US market, with over 75% of volume being incremental to their portfolio. In fact, 2021 was the first year in which a hard seltzer commercial (Bud Light Seltzer) aired during the Super Bowl. Malt-based RTDs are currently dominant in the US owing to their taxation base, and brewers there are in prime position to take advantage. Elsewhere, the alcohol base of choice varies by country, driven by consumer preference and local alcohol tax structures.

Changes in purchasing behaviour propel e-commerce

As with the wider beverage alcohol industry, Covid-19 has propelled the value of the alcohol e-commerce channel. Heineken, for example, reported that Beerwulf, its direct-to-consumer platform in Europe, nearly doubled its revenues in 2020, while in the UK, its revenues tripled. Online sales of its home-draught systems grew as well. Beer has traditionally under-traded online, primarily due to the channel offering lower margins. However, this will change as consumers continue to buy more groceries online and beer is included in the weekly shop. This is especially true in the US, where IWSR expects sales of online beer to grow rapidly as supermarket chains increasingly invest in the channel. Online beer sales hold the greatest market share in countries including Japan, the UK and the US. From a lower base, online beer sales will also grow rapidly over the next five years in markets such as Israel and Nigeria.

The entrepreneurial spirit of small-batch players

Craft breweries, which tend to be more dependent on the on-premise, have propelled interest in the global beer category and revitalised its fortunes in many markets. IWSR believes that the entrepreneurial spirit of the sector will mean that craft brewery regeneration will be quick. In the US, for example, IWSR has seen the pandemic lead to a “buy local” approach amongst some consumers, which will benefit small-batch players.

Innovation in the no/low space reignites the category

No- and low-alcohol beer is a bright spot for the category, as moderation and wellness trends continue to resonate with consumers. IWSR data shows that, to date, most volume has come from no-alcohol rather than low-alcohol beer across 10 key markets. Broadly, low-alcohol beer is giving way to no-alcohol offerings particularly in markets such as Australia, France and the UK. Spain, for example, is seeing a shift from low- to no-alcohol beers, as consumers seek healthier choices and view the newer 0.0% brands as more modern. In South Africa, investment from Heineken and the emergence of a craft segment has helped to generate interest in the no-alcohol category. While no-alcohol beer has existed for decades, in markets like the US, no-alcohol beer has premiumised through the release of no-alcohol versions of non-lager styles, long the domain of no-alcohol beer. More recent no-alcohol styles, such as IPAs, stouts or porters, are starting to make a real impression, driven particularly by new challenger brands, many of which are not linked to traditional brewing. The recent no-alcohol extension of Guinness – despite some teething issues – will help to underline that no-alcohol beers are no longer the sole domain of lagers. While several key beer players continue to steer the no/low beer category, the market is fragmented with a number of smaller brands vying to establish themselves as market leaders in this space. The segment is likely to become even more of a focus for smaller craft producers who are able to bring a diverse range of products to the market in future.

How Asian drinks brands are targeting new markets

Most Asian drinks brands sell the majority of their volumes domestically, where brand awareness is high and drinking cultures are long established. For example, IWSR data shows that approximately 97% of Japanese beer, wines, spirits and RTDs are consumed in the local market. When looking at just the premium-and-above price segment, over 60% of Japanese wines and spirits are consumed locally. But as competition from international brands mounts, local distillers, brewers and winemakers are dedicating more time and resources to developing their presence in overseas markets.

“There are lot of local champions that have a very strong position within their own market but little presence outside,” explains Tommy Keeling, Research Director at IWSR. “As Asian populations grow richer, consumers are trading up to imported drinks brands and the position of local champions suddenly looks less secure, so many are looking to diversify abroad.”

Keeling adds that for many brands, the real benefit of international expansion is the resulting uptick in interest in their domestic markets. In the case of Chinese spirit baijiu, for example, exports are unlikely to ever be more than a fraction of local sales, but distillers are hoping growing interest in the category abroad will boost its popularity at home.

Baijiu is a wealthy category, so brands are able to invest in high profile display advertising, such as Wuliangye’s billboard in Times Square. One of the main aims of this strategy would be to target relatively wealthy Chinese tourists who are already familiar with the brand. Luzhou Laojiao, another large baijiu producer, sponsored the 2019 Australian Open with its high-end Guojiao 1573 brand, again, principally targeting Chinese viewers.

For smaller brands such as Fenjiu, the main goal in international markets is education. “We would like to continue educating the UK market on baijiu and increase both trade and consumer awareness and understanding of this category,” says Qiqi Chen, managing director of Cheng International, the UK distributor of Fenjiu.

The brand takes a more intimate approach to marketing through meetings, masterclasses and tasting sessions, all supported through a strong social media drive. “There are two main baijiu education themes for us,” says Chen. “One is introducing Chinese food and drink culture, and the other is showing how Chinese baijiu can blend well with the western lifestyle.”

In order to offer a “more direct experience” of its brand, Fenjiu will increase its work with bars, restaurants, hotels and retailers, as well as brands outside of the food and drink industry.

Keeling adds that once brands start to expand internationally, it is crucial for them to tailor their approach to the market in which they are selling. For example, in South Korea, soju consumption is widespread, so brands mostly compete on price. However, due to shipping costs, import duties and excise taxes, the product becomes more expensive in overseas markets. As such, brands would be better to promote a different set of values.

For Asian beer brands, giving consumers an authentic taste of their respective cultures is an important way to expand their foreign fan base. The UK in particular gives brands the opportunity to grow their reach through the restaurant channel. Indian beer brand Kingfisher, for instance, has 5,000 distribution points in Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK.

John Price, head of marketing at KBE Drinks, the UK distributor of Kingfisher, notes that the brand “can be found in every type of eatery”, from high street curry houses to Michelin starred restaurants. “The restaurant channel will always remain the beating heart of our business, but it is sometimes hard to break out of this into wider consumption occasions,” he adds.

This is where sports sponsorships come in. Through commercial partnerships such as these, brands become visible in a new context. Kingfisher is currently a partner of Southampton FC, Leeds United FC, Sussex County Cricket and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club. “We don’t take on a partnership unless we get pouring rights and this gives consumers the chance to re-evaluate the brand in a fun and exciting environment,” adds Price.

Thailand’s Chang Beer, which is the official beer of Leicester City Football Club, has an international marketing strategy centred around provenance and heritage. “Growing internationally is a journey that is carefully curated with the right partners, the right channels and the right marketing mix,” says Ronnie Teo, head of group marketing at Chang.

“It is important to ensure that we work with partners who share the same long-term convictions as us. Our partners understand what our Chang brand stands for – its provenance and values – and collaborate with us to market the brand in the right sales channels with the right messaging.”

For a number of years, Chang has hosted the Chang Sensory Trails event in London, which celebrates Thai cuisine in a contemporary setting filled with music and street art. Events such as these allow Asian brands to become an essential part of the cultural experiences and representations of their respective nations.

Ultimately, says Teo, to grow internationally, brands must first have a strong domestic business. “To that end, we have seen our marketing efforts in Thailand pay dividends, with our market share growing by more than 15% share points between 2014 and 2019. This strong growth has made Chang an iconic local champion, appealing to Thais, as well as the millions of tourists that visit Thailand annually. With a solid domestic foundation, we were then able to springboard our international marketing efforts.”

Beam Suntory Reports 2020 Results

Beam Suntory, a leading global premium spirits company, reported full-year results for 2020.

Global net sales were flat for the year, as a return to growth in the second half offset lower sales in the first half of the year. Full-year sales grew 4% in the United States, as restaurant and bar activity improved in the second half and spirits continued to gain share from beer and wine. Sales were essentially flat in Japan, up at a single-digit rate in the UK and Russia, up high-single digits in Australia and Canada, and up double digits in Germany and South Korea. The impact of the pandemic led to lower sales in markets including Spain, India, China, South Africa and the Global Travel Retail channel.

Global sales for Jim Beam grew to surpass 11 million 9-litre equivalent cases for the first time, extending the brand’s leadership as the world’s number one Bourbon whiskey. Reflecting sustained consumer demand for premium brands, sales for Basil Hayden’s bourbon, Hornitos tequila, Toki whisky and Roku gin increased at double-digit rates. Sales were also exceptionally strong for Japanese ready-to-drink products and On The Rocks Premium Cocktails (acquired in September 2020), as consumer demand for convenience, refreshment and quality cocktails expanded.

“As we expected, consumer demand increased in the second half of 2020, even as the global pandemic continued to impact markets around the world,” said Albert Baladi, president & CEO of Beam Suntory. “I couldn’t be more proud of how our people adapted to confront the challenges of 2020 – from our frontline distillery workers to our sales teams, from our brand builders to every company function. As a result, we were able to meet consumers digitally in the emerging ‘home premise’ to support at-home cocktail-making and satisfy their expectations for convenience through increased investments in e-commerce and ready-to-drink products. At the same time, we supported our on-trade partners with innovations like cocktails to go, and guided by our vision of Growing for Good, we provided vital assistance to hard-hit restaurant and bar workers in markets around the world.”

“Looking ahead, the pace of recovery from the ongoing pandemic remains uncertain. In this environment, we expect to drive continued improvement in sales as we benefit from the strategic investments we made in 2020, the exciting brand plans we have in place, and our commitment to delivering quality to consumers at every step of the value chain up to the moment of consumption.”

Baladi also noted that Beam Suntory made substantial progress reducing its environmental impacts in 2020, and will soon announce a new global sustainability strategy featuring ambitious targets focussed on making a positive difference for nature, consumers and communities.

Update on Beam Suntory Growing for Good Initiatives

Environmental Sustainability

Carbon Reduction: Through the purchase of renewable electricity and the completion of multiple energy efficiency projects (Kentucky, Mexico and Scotland), Beam Suntory reduced its total Scope 1&2 carbon emissions by 25% compared to the 2015 baseline.

Water Efficiency: The company has reduced water use per unit of production by 29% (versus 2015 baseline) by optimising existing cooling systems and investing in more efficient cooling technologies at the Jim Beam distilleries in Kentucky.

Watershed Protection: The company has established Natural Water Sanctuary programmes at Maker’s Mark and adjacent to the Jim Beam distillery. The company continues to expand watershed protection activities to global manufacturing sites in India, Mexico, Spain, the US Virgin Islands and Ireland. Future activities are planned in Scotland, France and Canada. 

Sanitizer: To support hospital systems and first responders in the fight against Covid-19, the company’s facilities in Kentucky, Japan, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Mexico produced sanitizer sufficient to clean more than 50 million pairs of hands.

Hospitality industry: The company provided more than $3 million to support restaurant and bar workers and their families across numerous markets. Initiatives included Maker’s Mark’s partnership with the LEE Initiative Restaurant Reboot Relief Programme and Restaurant Workers Relief Programme, which donated more than 1 million meals to restaurant workers in the US, the company’s Shift-Meals To-Go programme supporting US hospitality workers and their families, and support programmes for on-trade workers in markets including Canada, the UK, Germany, Spain, Brazil and India.  

Pernod Ricard posts encouraging results than expected

The world’s second biggest alcobev manufacturer, Pernod Ricard posted its results recently and they seemed more encouraging than expected. The Q1 FY21 marked and improvement versus the Q4 FY20. The results were encouraging thanks to partial on-trade reopening and continued brand resilience in off-trade as India continues to be a resilient market for the company.

The total sales for the first quarter of FY21 totaled €2,236 million, which included an organic decline of -6% due to off-trade channel remaining resilient in the USA and Europe. Although there was a partial on-trade reopening, the report suggests that the channel is still disrupted with Travel Retail showcasing significant decline.

Results in India

Closer to India, which is one of the key markets for the manufacturer, continues to be in a double-digit decline. The growth in India revenues from its India operations grew only 6% in the year ended March 2020 against 27% jump a year earlier. The company recorded gross sales of Rs 21,424 crore in India in the year-ended March. However it recorded a 24% jump in its net profit for the year at Rs 1,612 crore as it focused more on premium brands. This was more than double of its larger rival United Spirits’ profit of Rs 705 crore during the year. Currently, India accounts for 11% of the manufacturers global sales. The company that follows a July-June fiscal globally, said that the Indian business declined 11% in the year ended June 2020 with heavy impact due to the pandemic. Alexandre Ricard, Chairman, Pernod Ricard informed investors last month that the fact that the business fell only 11% in the FY20 ‘despite the very strict lockdown disrupting the fourth quarter’ showed India’s resilience as a market. “We consolidated our leadership position with our market share still above 45%, and in fact, still growing slightly,” he added.

Results by Geography

With the festive season in the offing the results were strong in markets like USA and China, with strong shipments auguring well for the company. There was good resilience in the markets of Europe as well thanks to Off-Trade and ‘staycation’ over the summer. There was also strong dynamism in the UK and Germany with France nearing stability. However the markets of Spain and Russia showed decline.

By category, Sales were driven by

International Brands declined by -10% with significant declines for Martell, Chivas and Ballantine’s, primarily due to the restrictions in Travel Retail. But Malibu and The Glenlivet displayed strong growth with Jameson showcasing resilience. Local Brands saw a decline of -6%, with decline of Seagram’s Indian whiskies. But there was double-digit growth of Kahlua, Passport, Ramazzotti and Wiser’s. Specialty Brands saw an increase of +30%, thanks in particular to Lillet, Malfy, Aberlour, Avion, Altos and Monkey 47. Wines registered a growth of +9%, driven by double-digit growth of Campo Viejo and Brancott Estate with Jacob’s Creek growing by +8%. The overall reported sales declined by -10% due to unfavourable FX impacts, mainly from US Dollar and emerging market currencies. The Q2 is expected to still be strongly impacted by Covid-19, but Sales to return to growth in H2. Alexandre Ricard added that for FY21, “we expect continued resilience of our business in an uncertain and disrupted environment. I would like to take this opportunity to praise our teams, whose engagement and performance are exemplary

in these very challenging times. We will continue to implement our strategy, in particular accelerating our digital transformation. We will tightly manage costs while maintaining the agility to reinvest to adjust to market opportunities.”