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4-2017

Global hop market

A 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 Russia

Germany 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.

Japan. Sapporo Holdings chases standalone Pilsner Urquell deal with Anheuser-Busch InBev

Sapporo Holdings is keen to acquire Czech brewer Pilsner Urquell, its president has told just-drinks, but only if the unit is separated from Anheuser-Busch InBev's other former SABMiller assets.

2016-11-05-15-10-2016tsutomu-kamijo_cropped_90In an interview on Friday, Tsutomu Kamijo said Pilsner Urquell is a "good brand" that fitted Sapporo's focus on quality beer. However, the president, who last week announced he would step down at the end of the year, suggested a deal was unlikely unless current owner AB InBev agrees a standalone sale.

"Personally, I want to have Pilsner Urquell, but the other brands, I don't need them," Kamijo said at Sapporo's headquarters in Tokyo. "It [Pilsner Urquell] is a good brand. It fits our culture as beer lovers."

Pilsner Urquell is just one of dozens of central and eastern European beer assets AB InBev has put up for sale after the Budweiser owner acquired them as part of its takeover of SAB. A number of groups are reportedly interested in buying the brands, including private-equity firms and Sapporo's domestic rival Asahi, which has already completed the purchase of former SAB brands Grolsch and Peroni.

Reports in July said that AB InBev is seeking a single buyer for the assets.

Despite his interest in Pilsner Urquell, Kamijo said Sapporo's current focus lies outside of Europe. "We may need more energy to focus on Europe," he said. "In general, the market itself in Western Europe is not so huge. I think we are now at the stage to concentrate on North America and South East Asia, specifically Vietnam."

Asked if Sapporo would consider buying the Vietnamese government's majority stakes in Hanoi Beer Alcohol & Beverage Corp (Habeco) and Saigon Beer Alcohol and Beverages Corp (Sabeco), Kamijo said it was only natural that his company would be interested.

"We are there, and we have a relationship with the Government and also the company," he said. "We know much more (about Vietnam), compared to players such as Asahi and Kirin."

"We're not sure what the Government is thinking about," Kamijo warned. "They are on the way to releasing the government shares in Sabeco and Habeco, but they haven't yet announced how or when."

Sapporo was one of the first international brewers to enter the Vietnamese market and has had a brewery in the country since 2011.

Kamijo will step down as Sapporo's president on 1 January to become chairman of the alcohol, soft drinks and snacks conglomerate. He will be replaced by Sapporo Breweries president & Sapporo Holdings COO Masaki Oga.

Last week, the company launched a 2020 business plan with the aim of more than doubling international profits in the next four years.

8 Nov. 2016

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