China/Japan: Sapporo returns to China

After a nine-year absence Sapporo Breweries is returning to China. The third largest brewer in Japan has appointed AB InBev as its master distributor for Sapporo Premium Beer. AB InBev commands about 16% of the Chinese beer market, which places the Belgium-based brewer third in one of the most promising beer markets in the world.

“China is the largest beer consuming country on the globe and its premium segment of this market inclusive of imported beer brands is in particular continuing to exhibit dramatic growth. The company [Sapporo] also intends to gain a foothold in this market segment and expand its distribution channels. Given the recent popularity of Japanese brands fueled by growth of the Japanese food market and the increase in foreign tourists to Japan, the company has determined that now is the right time to re-enter the market and launch sales consignments through a master distributor contract with ABI that commands a dominating market presence in the premium segment,” Sapporo said in a press statement on Thursday.

In 2007, Sapporo entered the Chinese market by concluding a contract brewing agreement in the communist country. It also established its own sales force but had to pull out two years later "due to lack of demand".

It is not the only brewer to fail in this country. Asahi Group Holdings sold in December 2017 its 19.99% stake in China’s second largest brewing group,Tsingtao Brewery, after it had failed to achieve the hoped-for synergies for its own business during the last eight years. (, 21.12.2017)

“Unfortunately, Tsingtao is not selling [Asahi] Super Dry,” said Asahi’s President Akiyoshi Koji at that time. “Ownership without control doesn’t make much sense,” he added. (,

Chinese shipments of Sapporo Premium Beer, which is already being sold in North America, Asia, and Europe, will start in early November 2018. The Japanese brewer is targeting sales of one million cases in 2022. The product will be produced at Sapporo's Vietnam brewery and will be available in 330ml bottles, 650ml cans and 20L kegs.

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