Getting Beyond China’s Mythical 1.4 Billion

In casual conversation with those who are interested in China’s craft beer market, it doesn’t take long before mention of China’s 1.4 billion population is made. One can take this as a pat euphemism for seeing the country as a lucrative business opportunity. It can also belie an ignorance that views the country as a monolith.

To attempt exporting on this basis alone would be to court failure. Not all of America is the same. Not all Americans are alike. The same is true of China. Sure there is a lot of capita, but what capita, where? Continue reading

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The Challenges for China’s Craft Beer Revolution

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Xian Brewing brewer, Jon Therrian, adds malt to his brew kettle.

As in North America, the craft beer phenomenon in China is not a fad. it’s a cultural transformation being driven by a generational shift in the consumer market. With the growing influence of urban Millennials in the marketplace, their needs and preferences are increasingly driving trends.

Craft beer is an aspirational lifestyle product that is attractive to China’s new middle class. It’s an “affordable luxury”, as Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing is fond of saying. Although craft beer lacks the status of wine or Scotch whisky, its appreciation requires all the sophistication of wine tasting but at a fraction of the cost.

Product novelty is important to Millennials. Therefore, drinking a generic light lager designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator holds little interest. Small-batch brewing, on the other hand, embraces continual product innovation. You might say, then, that macro beer is a gastronomic cul-de-sac, craft beer an adventure. Continue reading