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.
Japan. Asahi eyes overseas growth via European acquisitions
Asahi has completed its purchase of four companies, including Italy's Peroni and Dutch brand Grolsch, from Britain's SABMiller, which was taken over by the world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev of Belgium. These units rang up about 86 billion yen ($834 million) in sales for the year ended in March. The deal raises overseas sales to about 16% of Asahi's total, up around 4 percentage points from the estimate for this fiscal year.
Eager for Super Dry
When President Akiyoshi Koji attended a mid-October gathering at a London hotel with representatives of the acquired companies, several asked him when they would be able to start selling Asahi's flagship Super Dry beer. "There is strong interest in Japan's beer technologies and brand marketing," Koji said.
Asahi plans to start producing and selling Super Dry in those locales as early as 2018. Though the product has barely penetrated the Italian and Dutch markets, Asahi thinks room for growth exists if it taps the premium-beer sales channels and expertise offered by Peroni and the others.
Super Dry is sold in about 70 countries. Asahi has achieved some success by marketing it as a premium beer in Asia and elsewhere. Priced 30-50% higher than regular beer, Super Dry is the top premium brand in South Korea and Hong Kong, more popular than Heineken of the Netherlands.
Though western Europe is less promising as a growth market compared with emerging nations, the risk of getting embroiled in price competition is smaller. Premium beer makes up almost half of Italy's market, and Asahi sees Super Dry gaining some fans there.
The latest acquisition is Asahi's largest abroad. And speculation exists that the company will buy SABMiller's beer operations in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania for more than 500 billion yen. SABMiller holds the top market share in four of these five eastern European nations, and its portfolio includes Pilsner Urquell, a Czech brand popular in Europe. Though Asahi says it has no plans regarding any acquisition offer, adding these operations would boost the company's overseas business.
Foreign expansion vital
For Japanese brewers, strengthening overseas operations is an urgent matter amid grim growth prospects domestically due to a declining birthrate and diversification in consumers' drinking styles. Beer shipments by Japan's five largest brewers decreased 2.1% on the year in the January-September period, declining for the 12th straight year.
Asahi began looking abroad in earnest in 2009. The brewer bought the Australian beverage operations of a U.K. company for about 77 billion yen. Asahi subsequently made acquisitions mainly in the Oceania region, including a Malaysian dairy business, while taking stakes in China's Tsingtao Brewery and a major Chinese food company.
Yet the brewer trails domestic rivals in making inroads abroad. Asahi projects a sixth consecutive record annual operating profit for the year through December, but overseas operating profit before the acquisition in western Europe was about 3% of the total, excluding companywide costs and other factors.
The company earns most of its profit from alcohol, beverages and food in Japan, and this structure has changed little in the past six years. Meanwhile, rival Kirin Holdings is on track to earn about 30% of total profit from abroad this fiscal year.
Letting the money flow
But Asahi has access to funds for a comeback abroad. Koji has said the company will tolerate a debt-to-equity ratio of about 1, noting that Asahi can increase debt to around 1 trillion yen. Based on free cash flow and cash on hand, the company can spend another 500 billion yen or so in addition to the western European deal.
Asahi also said Wednesday that it will end a capital partnership with Kagome, unloading its 10.03% stake in the company for 24.6 billion yen. The brewer is poised to sell off other assets to finance investment in growth.
The merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller gave birth to a giant with a nearly 30% global market share. Asahi stands no chance in trying to match the scale of this goliath, which is more than 10 times bigger in operating profit and market capitalization. Japan's leading brewer instead faces the test of whether it can grow Super Dry and other products that are fruits of Japanese technologies by leveraging the sales channels of newly acquired entities.
8 Nov. 2016