Global hop marketA local alternative to mass beer suggested by independent brewers has been successful and is now altering the global market. Beer is becoming more diversified, so transnational companies have to accept the new game rules and to switch focus to young and fast growing markets. All these processes increased the demand for aroma and bitter hop as well as their acreage expansion on two continents. However now there appeared a downward trend of alcohol consumption in the world, so even special sorts can soon turn to be sufficient. In this connection the dynamic American hop market is already facing some problems. EU hop producers have become more cautious, they are not racing to exceed the demand and look forward with more confidence, judging by the contract terms.
Hop Market in RussiaGermany still dominates the Russian market, yet over the recent two years one has been able observe a continuous success of Czech hop suppliers. Their expansion and growing popularity of hops from the United States became the drivers of supplies growth in 2016 despite the preceding modest harvest crop in the EU, as well as the factor of relative stability in 2017. In this connection, in 2017, the ratio of the varieties continued to shift towards the aroma ones, and the supplies of Magnum hop and other alpha varieties were reduced. However, the import of bitter hop pellets is partially replaced by extracts, especially from the major beer manufacturers. Total volumes of alpha acid supplies, according to our estimation, decreased by approximately 5% and returned to the level of 2015. Barth Haas Group continues dominating the hop products market; HVG also increased its weight. At the same time, Morris Hanbury significantly reduced the supplies in 2017.
10+1 trends of Russian beer market 2015-2017Despite of the moderately negative prognoses for 2017, the beer market can be stabilized soon. Yet the years of the negative dynamics have resulted in marketing being limited just to “optimization” and the art of balancing between price and volumes. Bigger supermarkets share means stronger trade marketing. These processes are connected to the majority of the described trends. At the same time, the federal brands inflation leads to searching for new tastes, sales channels and contact formats that expand the product range and diversify the beer market, but do not imply a substantial volume increase. Let us enumerate and further discuss the ten trends of the beer market we can see in 2015-2017 as well as the major event of 2017.
Beer market of Ukraine 2017In the first half of 2017, the Ukrainian beer market goes on decreasing slowly. Yet, the companies manage to compensate their lost volumes by raising prices and improving the sales structures. This results in the mid price market segment reduction while the sales of premium brands are rising. These processes are connected to position strengthening of companies Carlsberg Group and Oasis and the market share reduction of Obolon. Most of the novelties by the market leaders belong to craft or hard lemon categories.
Beer market of Russia 2016: PET goes to draftThe beer market of Russia was warmed up by the hot summer, but the preparation for large volume PET prohibition has already impacted it negatively. The year was successful for Efes, MBC and regional producers; Carlsberg’s positions were virtually stable but AB InBev and Heineken lost a part of market share having focused on the sales profitability. The dynamics of big brands was determined by how much the companies were willing to keep the prices down or by their promotional activity. In this context the economy segment of the beer market and sales of inexpensive draft beer were increasing. The premium segment started shrinking due to license brands migrating to the mainstream segment.
Thailand. Born, bred (and perhaps brewed)
The place is actually Deva Farm & Cafe, arguably Thailand's first hops farm, it has, since establishing the business last year, so far housed as many as 26 species of hop plant -- the type of plant whose flowers are a key ingredient in beer brewing.
This farming initiative has come in a crucial yet controversial time: the past few years have seen a surge of popularity in craft beer -- a term known for home-made beer or imported ones -- among Thai producers and consumers while there's still a law on prohibition on small-scale beer brewing in Thailand.
According to the law, beer brewing is only legal in two cases: with industrial-scale factory producing at least 10 million litres of beer per year, such as the two biggest Thai brands Chang by Thai Beverage or Singha and Leo by Boon Rawd Brewery; or with brew-pubs like Tawandang German Brewery, which produces and sells on-site at least 100,000 litres of beer per year.
For founders of Deva Farm & Cafe, Nattachai Ungsriwong and his brother Teerapat Ungsriwong, it all started simply with the passion in alcoholic beverages -- wine, whisky and beer -- until they came across imported beers like the popular Belgian wheat beer Hoegaarden many years ago. From then on, they started to seek out for a wider variety of imported beers ever since.
"There's never one right definition for 'craft beer'," said Nattachai. "For me personally, it must be something that you create with love and care, and the commercial aspect of it is hardly part of the consideration."
Both Thai Beverage and Boon Rawd Brewery, Thailand's two biggest beer manufacturers, use imported hops. Nattachai believes that it is because the brands Chang and Singha produce lager beer, and the flavouring from hops in the recipe is not so much of an emphasis that they would invest in local farming.
Among basic ingredients like water, a starch source like malted barley and yeast for fermentation, hops work in beer brewing both as a preservative and flavouring agent. And this is where craft beer differs from mainstream lager beer. With craft beer, Nattachai said that a variety of hops is used, sometimes mixed together, in creating more distinctive characters.
"At first I just liked growing vegetables myself," said Nattachai. "But then later I got to know more about beer and finally learned how to brew it. I heard that there have been attempts to grow hops in Thailand before. There's also an idea that the plant cannot grow in this type of weather but I went ahead anyway and ordered hops rhizomes from the US just to experiment. It turned out that they have grown fine, and things got more serious from there."
Among the 26 species of hops growing at Deva Farm & Cafe are Columbus, which is citrusy and slightly woody, Chinook, which is slightly spicy and very piny, and Centennial, which gives out a strong citrus aroma. Nattachai compared the plant to grapes in that it's also a climbing plant that lasts as long as 10 years.
After four or five days of the rhizomes being buried in soil, sprouts will start to shoot out. After three to four months, the plant's bines will grow up the strings or wires to the overhead trellis as high as 6-10m. In Europe or America, after the harvest of the flowers, the plants will be cut almost to the bottom as winter approaches. Because of Thailand's warm weather, Nattachai said that the crop can enjoy a second growth cycle and consequently double its production.
The chance of small-scale beer brewing being legalised is slim, so Nattachai said he's planning to export his produce to brewing factories in neighbouring countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
"In terms of the quality, I think we can surely compete with hops producers from abroad," said Nattachai. "First of all, it's just like any other plant, different locations produce different tastes and characters."
Nattachai said that it would take at least three years for the crop to reach its full potential in terms of taste. He speculated that the farm could produce as much as 1,400kg of hops per year.
Another way of making a business with his produce is a plan to open a brewpub right next to his farm soon. To be named Mitr-Sampan, the pub is co-founded with Wichit Saiklao, an army colonel, of Chitbeer, a bar on Koh Kret, considered to be the hub of Thai craft beers.
Since 2014, Col Wichit has been hosting a weekly class on beer brewing at the bar (Nattachai being one of his students) and has so far taught some 500 people, resulting in around 50 craft beer brands.Every weekend, craft beer lovers join at Chitbeer to taste new beers created by local producers. Strictly speaking, this is not entirely within the law, but Col Wichit believes in the academic purpose of his class -- he wants to educate people and create a community of beer brewers, preparing for the day when prohibition is lifted.
"Craft beer has become such a hit in the past few years because like any other things in life nowadays, we want something that fits our individuality -- what we eat, the car that we drive, the place that we go," said Col Wichit. "And beer is part of that trend. With beers in Thailand, I think of the limited choice not as a problem but as a great opportunity."
The plan for brewpub Mitr-Sampan is a testimony to this commitment, Col Wichit said. Eventually, the movement will move to the legal stage where Thai brewers will be invited to join in and showcase their talents.
Surprisingly, Col Wichit doesn't think that beer brewing should be legalised right away as in other countries. He said that craft beer is an art, and "the content" by Thai brewers is to be perfected further.
"Maybe it's some sort of psychological working, because it's illegal, people are somehow driven to learn about beer brewing more and develop their craft further," said Col Wichit.
"Just use common sense, our country has great diversity of resources, and our beers will have unique characteristics for sure -- maybe we can use mineral water from Ranong province, perhaps the fruits from the South, and so on. The future of Thai craft beer will definitely be great."
19 Aug. 2016