Beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world, prepared by the fermentation of grains and has been brewed in Asia for 7,000 years. The beer market in Asia Pacific is currently thriving and expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8 percent from 2016 to 2022, according to market intelligence agency Research and Markets.
Tseng Chun-Kai, general manager, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation, shares his view on the beer market in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Please share why the company chose to infuse its beers with fruit flavours.
Aligned with our expansion plan, we have decided to develop new products which target the youth and the young adult market. Taiwan, due to its geographical climatic advantage, produces some of the tastiest tropical fruits, thus blending natural fruit juice with our locally-produced beer is the way to go for us.
Going with an entirely different product branding—that features a light beer with 3.5 percent alcohol content and nine percent real fruit juice—the company has taken a very different proposition from our traditional beer branding—from its packaging to its brand positioning.
Taiwan Sweet Touch
How have consumers responded to fruit-flavoured beer in Singapore and the region?
Since 2012, we have started our regional expansion in Southeast Asia through our sole distributor, Kaimay Trading. With Singapore as the gateway into Southeast Asia, the distributor has launched the Sweet Touch Series, Fruit Beer Series and the Gold Medal Taiwan Beer in Singapore, and the market acceptance by Singaporean consumers has been positive.
Through a wholesome marketing strategy, Singaporean consumers quickly got to know about the variety of Taiwanese beer that has been brought into the local market and they love it; particularly fruit-flavoured beer from the Sweet Touch Series—lychee and white grape. Following the success of these flavours, we have recently launched our grapefruit beer in the country.
How do Asian consumer tastes in beer differ from their western counterparts?
Consumer preferences in the taste of beer differ vastly between countries in Asia Pacific compared to their Western counterparts, especially towards their liking in the level of bitterness in beer. Consumers from the West tend to have a higher acceptance towards bitterness in beer. On the contrary, consumers in the East prefer beer which tastes slightly sweet with a low level of bitterness.
How are the company’s beers set apart from those of the competition?
We use only high-quality barley malt, selected hops and premium formosa rice in our brewing process. Adding formosa rice as the key ingredient to our Gold Medal Taiwan Beer gives it a smooth and unique flavour which has been well received by our consumers and it differentiates us from our competitors.
What are some of the obstacles you face in this market?The beer market in Singapore is relatively saturated. Price wars are commonly seen, especially during festive periods in the country. Moreover, we are a relatively young brand as compared to the bigger market players; of which some are pioneers to the country’s beer market scene. Though we have built up brand awareness in our home country, Taiwan, we still have a lot of room for improvement in our brand awareness in both Singapore and the Southeast Asian market. Having said that, we are confident that with our high-quality beer, we will be able to remain competitive and still grow in this saturated marketplace.
What are your views on the beer market in Southeast Asia?
The beer market is booming in Vietnam. The country is one of Asia’s largest beer markets; with a per capita consumption of 41 litres in 2016—total nation-wide consumption of approximately 3.8 billion litres; ranking it the first among the ASEAN countries and third in Asia; slightly behind Japan (48 litres) and South Korea (42 litres). By the year 2020, Vietnam is expected to reach a per capita consumption of 49 litres per capita that will rank them first in Asia. Thus, our expansion in Southeast Asia market will be focussing on the Vietnamese market.