Brewers eye cider, RTDs as beer sales stumble

Brewers eye cider, RTDs as beer sales stumble

China will drive global beer sales in 2012, but growing numbers of brewers will look to expand into cider and ready-to-drink products, Rabobank analysts have predicted.

Global beer sales are expected to increase by 2% in volume and 4% in value in 2012, to 196bn litres and US$645bn respectively, said Rabobank in a report published today (13 February). China, already the largest beer market in the world, will account for 50% of the volume growth in the year, it said, citing Euromonitor market figures.

Overall, a two-speed beer world is expected to continue, with growth in China backed by stronger consumer demand in Asia and Africa. Meanwhile, demand in Europe and North America is likely to fall further, although price increases will help the US to provide 12% of the global market value growth over the 12 months.

Amid sluggish demand for mainstream beers in mature markets, Rabobank expects more brewers to expand ther portfolios. Cider and ready-to-drink malt-based beverages look the most likely options.

"From a distribution viewpoint, cider fits nicely with beer," Rabobank said. It rejected concerns within some corners of the trade that there is a high level of cannibalisation between cider and lager sales. 

Ireland-based C&C Group already combines the Tennent's lager brand with its Magners cider, while, in the US, MillerCoors last week announced the acquisition of the third largest cider player, Crispin Cider Co. Cider, however, accounts for only 0.2% of long alcoholic drinks sales by volume in the US.

On malt-based drinks, Rabobank said that there are neat synergies with beer brewing. It added: "In 2012, malt-based RTDs will have a volume growth similar to beer, but within Western Europe and North America, they will buck the declining beer consumption trend and grow approximately 5% faster."