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Budweiser to focus on premiumization, digital transformation and market expansion in China

Budweiser Brewing Co APAC Ltd, the Hong Kong-listed brewer, will focus on premiumization, digital transformation and market expansion in China during the coming years, given the country's soaring demand for premium and healthy beverage products, as well as its strategic importance, its top executive said.

Many growth opportunities come from China's rapid growth in the digital economy as well as its transformation. The opportunities also come from consumers' surging demand for beer products with new flavors and the government's opening-up policies, said Jan Craps, co-chair and CEO of Budweiser APAC.

"With our ongoing premiumization strategy, we will offer more multi-category premium options for diverse consumers and various consumption scenarios, such as Budweiser Supreme for premium dining occasions, Budweiser Magnum for male consumers, and Budweiser ME3 for engagement of female drinkers," said Craps, who was honored with the Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award in September for his outstanding contribution to the city's economic and social development as well as its foreign exchange and cooperation.

Supported by more than 50 plants and 25,000 employees in the Asia-Pacific region, Budweiser APAC's sales revenue jumped 14.3 percent on a yearly basis to $5.36 billion in Asia-Pacific region during the first three quarters of this year. China, South Korea, Vietnam and India were among its pillar markets, according to the company's latest fiscal report.

Craps said the company's growth momentum was mainly driven by the strong performance of the Chinese market during the nine-month period. He stressed that premiumization, digital transformation and market expansion will be Budweiser APAC's three key commercial strategies for the coming years.

As a subsidiary of the Leuven, Belgium-headquartered AB InBev - the world's biggest brewer by production volume – Budweiser APAC began running the group's first "Green Smart Brewery" in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province in 2020, and started to build a new craft brewery in Putian, Fujian province in July, to support its growth in premium brands.

A report by Global Data, a data analytics firm, predicted that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for China's high-end and ultra- high-end beer categories is expected to reach 4.9 percent from 2018 to 2023, significantly higher than the 0.9 percent CAGR of the overall Chinese beer market during the same period.

Besides deploying more resources in offline channels, Budweiser APAC launched BEES - its proprietary B2B digital platform - to enable its wholesalers to optimize operation and broaden their customer bases in the first quarter of this year.

"E-commerce fronts represent another a priority battleground for us, because its growth can effectively allow us to more closely engage consumers and respond to new consumption trends," Craps added.

Speaking of the group's long-term goals, Craps said the company's dream is to "become the most loved high-quality growth leader in beverage" in both China and the Asia-Pacific region. Winning the recognition of consumers, customers and stakeholders is of paramount importance to the company.

Driven by an increasingly urbanized and high-income Chinese population and their evolving tastes, China is currently counted among many global food and beverage companies' main markets in terms of revenue, said Guo Xin, a marketing professor at Beijing Technology and Business University.

"The country's dual-circulation development paradigm, holiday periods and online shopping festivals, as well as the stay-at-home economy pushed by the COVID-19 pandemic, have all created growth momentum," Guo said.

Under the dual-circulation model, the domestic market is the mainstay while the domestic and foreign markets reinforce each other.

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