Surfing the ebb and flow of the Asian alcohol market

April 14, 2015

Serving a global market can be great, if a bit of an adventure. The manifestly diverse nature of a worldwide customer base means that a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia can affect winds of change in the U.S. and Europe.

Two Islamic parties in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim population, have proposed legislation that would ban alcohol sales, with draconian jail sentences for offenders. The parties sponsoring the bill cite “the protection of the children of the nation” as the fundamental motivation behind the bill, but whatever the reason, putting the world’s fourth most populous country on the wagon would throw the hooch business a curve ball.

As this Reuters graphic shows, Indonesian beer sales have increased by better than 50 percent over the past decade, but its overall consumption remains quite small despite a population of over 250 million. A recent Nielsen survey found that just 2.2 percent of Indonesians over 20 had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months, but Indonesian tourism officials are concerned about the economic effects of extending an alcohol ban to tourist spots like Bali.

Still, even as spirits giants Diageo, CarlsbergĀ and Heineken are bracing for the worst in Indonesia, the Chinese beer market is growing precipitously, set to overtake the U.S. by 2017. One sales opportunity closes and another opens.

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