Domestic beer sales fall flat
By Al Campbell
Recent figures released by the Customs and Excise Department reveal beer consumption in Hong Kong is likely to be down for the second consecutive year.
In the first nine months, drinkers and consumers in Hong Kong purchased 104,846,000 litres of beer, down 7.68 per cent from the same period last year when the volume was 115,525,000 litres.
Last year, the volume of duty-paid beer (the total beer market) was down 4.2 per cent over 1995.
These figures are likely to worry big breweries such as San Miguel and Carlsberg which are said to have lost significant market share recently in the face of rising sales of imported brands.
In 1995, imported beer outperformed domestic beer for the first time, capturing a 52 per cent share. It increased to 54 per cent last year, according to the Statistics Department.
Gil Schwarz, Corona Extra regional manager Asia-Pacific, said imported beer sales increased 116 per cent last year over 1995 and were increasing at about 40 per cent this year.
He said Corona Extra would sell about 450,000 to 500,000 cases of the Mexican beer this year in Hong Kong, roughly the same as last year, and he estimated it had a 5 per cent share of the import market and a 2 per cent share overall.
'The reason imported beer is putting up such significant numbers is that a lot of supermarket brands, like Castle Lager, have flooded the market. Together, all these brands account for a significant volume,' Mr Schwarz said.
'People in Hong Kong may be drinking less beer but they are drinking better. There is a huge downturn in cognac consumption and wine sales are up. If people drink beer, they go for better beer and perceived quality. Import is perceived as quality over domestic production.' Miranda Cheung, Heineken brand manager in Hong Kong, said the beer had been increasing its local market share in double digits for the past five years and would experience single-digit growth this year.