The global malt beverage industry has expanded by 42% over the past five years, with the Middle East and Africa recording particularly strong growth, according to recent research.

A report from Canadean, released earlier this month, has concluded that, while the clear version is the malt drink of choice in the MENA region and Africa, dark malt is preferred in Latin America, where sales have been slowing.

Fastest growth in Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

The MENA region - where only unfermented, clear malt is sold - is the fastest-growing market for clear malt beverages, with a growth rate of 76% and volumes almost doubling over the last five years. Canadean predicts that the market for malt beverages will remain robust, as alcoholic products are banned in the majority of MENA countries.

"In markets as restricted as the MENA markets, manufacturers need to innovate to keep consumers interested," said Michael Ramsell, beverage analyst at Canadean. "Malt brands will stay innovative by offering clear malt in a diverse range of flavours such as peach, pomegranate and raspberry. Such flavours are already offered by Heineken's Fayrouz and Carlsberg's Moussy.”

Clear malt is becoming more popular in Africa

According to Canadean, malt also recorded strong growth in Africa in the last five years, with an increase in sales of 62%. Nigeria is the world’s largest malt market, and accounts for 74% of malt sales in Africa. As opposed to MENA countries, Africa is dominated by dark malt – a product brewed using roasted barley, which gives the drink a much darker colour. Ramsell says: “Dark malt drinks are marketed at children and working class consumers who prefer sweet tasting beverages. However, clear malts have become more popular, after being introduced as an adult beverage in an attempt to attract a more affluent and wider audience."

Slowing LATAM markets in need of innovation boost

The report further shows that Latin American markets are still 100% dominated by dark malts. However, markets in Latin America only grew by 4% since 2009, as growth is dependent on the region's two largest markets, Venezuela and Colombia, which currently hold 33% and 36% of the market share, respectively. Ramsell adds: "The poor economic performance of both countries has slowed the malt drinks market in Latin America, meaning manufacturers need to innovate and branch out to different markets."