ZX Venture’s new brewing plant will produce beer for three of its leading craft beer brands — Goose Island, Boxing Cat and Kaiba — the latter two being local.
The new production facility in Hubei province, which was built to meet the demand in the market for high-quality (small-scale) ‘craft beer’, is the first of its kind in Asia Pacific for AB InBev.
Premium and craft beer popular in China
Pedro Aidar, head of specialities, ZX Ventures APAC North, told China Daily: “Drinking craft beer is a developing trend in China. We have noticed that (over the years) consumer preferences have switched from traditional beer to craft beer."
Aidar said that consumers in China are choosing a more diverse range of premium beer products and their market share is steadily growing.
In China, the market share of craft beer compared to that of traditional or imported beer is still very small. Nonetheless, in recent years, craft beer sales have risen significantly
Industry site Chinairn states that the craft beer market in China is growing by 40% per year.
Factoring in local tastes and preferences
The company expects Chinese consumer preference for craft beer to grow and to further challenge imported beers in the market.
Aidar said that ZX Ventures will promote the craft beer products at trade fairs, by organising events, as well as promoting them to bars.
He added that the charm of craft beer lies in innovation, and "China's deep history and culture” will become “an endless source of inspiration" to produce new local craft beer recipes.
ZX Ventures has also entered into a partnership with the Brewing Technologies Academy and Hubei Light Industry Technology Institute to train students to be future brewers.
AB InBev has been investing heavily in China and in December opened a new brewery in Putian, Fujian province. With an annual production capacity of 1.5 million metric tonnes of beer, the facility became the company’s largest brewing plant in Asia Pacific.
Carlos Brito, AB InBev CEO, had said the new facility was to ramp up production to cater to China’s growing middle class and their growing taste for premium beer products.
“China is currently considered to be not only the largest consumer of alcohol beverages in the world but is also set to become the world's largest beer market,” he added.
Also around that time, AB InBev acquired Australian craft brewer Pirate Life, its 12th craft brewer acquisition of the year. Together with its earlier investment in the previously independent Ratebeer website, this drew concern and strong reaction from craft beer brewers and beer-lovers.