As most countries in South East Asia continue to recover from the 1997 monetary crisis, beer continues to be one of the beneficiaries, according to data released today.

The region's beer market has traditionally been heavily influenced by European brewing techniques and beer tastes. However, the market remains very much a closed shop with imports accounting for less than 4% of total consumption.

Taiwan jumps highest Imports have though been readily accepted in Taiwan where they increased by an astonishing 46% during the year. Furthermore, 26% of all beer consumed in Taiwan is now imported. This is largely a result of the leading foreign brands increasing distribution penetration and undertaking heavy promotional and marketing support.

With total consumption increasing by an impressive 32%, Taiwan is the fastest growing market. The country became a member of the Word Trade Organisation at the beginning of 2002, enabling foreign brewers to set up local bottling plants and many of the restrictions on advertising alcoholic drinks have been lifted.

Plenty of spring in Thailand's step The largest national market is Thailand where consumption rose by a little under 5% but this does appear to be slowing after the explosive growth that took place between 1993 and 1996. Stricter drink driving legislation and increasing health concerns have encouraged consumers to switch to beer from hard liquor. However, many of these consumers have sought beers with a higher alcohol content, fuelling Pilsner's 99% share of throat. Thailand's low production costs and sophisticated infrastructure have enabled it to successfully export to more affluent countries and become the region's joint leading exporter of beer, a position shared with Malaysia.

The second largest consumer of beer is the Philippines. Despite improving slightly in 2002, consumption has been adversely affected by a weak economy, falling tourism and higher excise taxes, and has declined by 14% over the last seven years. Third placed Vietnam is experiencing a period of strong economic growth. This is supporting beer consumption which grew by 8%. The Vietnamese government's strong backing of local beer brands has left imports accounting for less than 1% of total consumption.

Looking at South East Asia as a whole, Pilsner is the most popular category whilst distribution is dominated by the on-premise sector where two thirds of all beer is consumed. Again, distribution differs greatly from country to country with on-premise accounting for 90% of consumption in Vietnam but as little as 27% in the Philippines.

There are indications that the beer market in South East Asia may be reaching maturation. However, Canadean predict that Thailand and Vietnam will continue to grow strongly and the resulting increased volumes will more than off set the losses expected to be made in some of the weaker markets. Overall, growth is expected to reach 5% in 2003 but should slow in 2004 and 2005.