China Beer Market

China’s Beer Market Overview [Insights & New Trends]

According to the latest records, China is the largest beer market in the world. In fact, the country managed to hold this title for the last eighteen to nineteen years.

In 2023, Chinese consumers drank an average of 34.7 liters of beer per person. With this continued demand, numerous successful foreign brands are currently thriving in China’s beer market.

In this post, we’ll touch base on the popularity of beer in China, the new industry trends, and the strategies foreign marketers can use to get a solid brand reputation in the local market.


Is Beer Popular in China?

Yes, beer is popular in China. The industry began to rise in the 1980s but didn’t become the most sought-after alcoholic beverage in the country until 1990.

The increase in Chinese consumers buying this product has led the country to surpass America’s beer consumption rate for nearly two decades. Today, local beer sales are reaching new heights, generating over $42.5 billion in 2024.


Local consumers at the 33rd Qingdao International Beer Festival

Local consumers at the 33rd Qingdao International Beer Festival (Source: China Daily)


However, recent reports hint at the decreasing domestic beer consumption. The changing consumer preferences and global influence have made pricier international beer brands more attractive in the eyes of local drinkers.

As the world’s largest beer producer, it’s not a surprise that local companies like CR Snow Beer and Tsingtao Brewery dominate the market.  Despite that, foreign brands like Budweiser are showing impressive beer sales in the Chinese market.

This global premium beer brand generated a whopping $974 million in revenue in 2022. It’s a demand mainly associated with the thirst of China’s beer market for premium alcoholic drinks. Other global consumer brands in this industry are Heineken, Corona, and Anheuser-Busch.


China Beer market key players

Source: Statista


Who are Beer Consumers in China?

The dominant age group in the world’s largest beer market is Chinese consumers between 25 and 34. Today’s local beer enthusiasts mainly seek premium and craft products. Most of them reside in first and second-tier cities.

These consumer groups choose premium beer brands because they’re less price-sensitive and are more likely to buy different flavors. Around 58.5% of them fall under the male demographic, mostly highly educated, with a sizable income rate.

An average consumer in China’s beer market spends around $91.24 on alcoholic drinks. It’s a combined estimation of local beer spending under home and out-of-home categories. The majority of these customers buy or order products from supermarkets and convenience stores.


Consumer profile of China's beer market


5 New Trends in the Chinese Beer Market

1.    High Premium Beer Consumption

Premium beers in China are those alcoholic drinks with a price tag higher than 8 RMB or $1.11.  Lately, Chinese beer lovers are leaning towards these pricier picks, choosing product quality over how many bottles of affordable beers they can purchase.

This trend is popular among consumers with higher spending capability and a bigger focus on staying healthy. Seeing the rising demand, local beer manufacturing companies began jumping out with their premium product lines.

For example, CR Beer Snow getting the rights to Heineken is a significant move towards the fancier side of these alcoholic beverages.


Source: Bloomberg


Like other beer companies, Tsingtao Brewery followed the “premium” trend. The brand released Luxury Legend, which garnered attention not only for its sophisticated taste but also for its hefty price tag of $190 per bottle.


2.    The Heightened Demand for Craft Beers

The trend for craft beer in China started when regional brewers experimented with unique recipes. With shifting customer tastes, this product category created a new wave of interest.

In the early 2000s, craft beers only account for approximately 1% of the beer market in China. Today, there are over 13,000 businesses producing craft beer products in the country.

The trends from small craft breweries also reached major brands like CR and Tsingtao Brewery. The latter even launched a landmark called West Coast Craft Beer Garden in Qingdao to attract more local consumers interested in this product category.


West Coast Craft Beer Garden in Qingdao

West Coast Craft Beer Garden in Qingdao (Source: China Daily)


3.    Increased Beer Sales in E-Commerce Platforms

During the pandemic, the beer market in China managed to survive with the help of local e-commerce platforms.

Even at the height of COVID-19 in 2020, Tmall recorded a 48.2% and 42.5% year-on-year increase in online beer sales income and market volume. The average online price of a beer climbed by about 4% during the same period.

The rise in e-commerce beer sales can be attributed to several factors, like the convenience of e-shopping, the expansion of digital payment methods, and the broadening of virtual distribution channels that can reach consumers directly at home.


Corona’s E-Commerce Store on Tmall

Corona’s E-Commerce Store on Tmall


4.    Sustainable and Eco-friendly Alternatives

Several forward-thinking beer brands are leading the charge toward a greener future, tapping into innovative technologies and practices that promise to reshape the industry landscape.

Recently, Budweiser announced the upcoming inauguration of its first carbon-neutral malt house in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. This business move signifies the brand’s unwavering commitment to slashing carbon emissions and fostering China’s sustainable beer industry.


Budweiser’s booth at an event in Shanghai

Budweiser’s booth at an event in Shanghai (Source: China Daily)


China is not only the leading country in beer production and consumption, but it’s also at the forefront of sustainable development. Last year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recognized 17 beer production companies among its list of green manufacturing enterprises.


5.    Popularity of Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer

Non-alcoholic beers are all the rage now for Chinese Gen Z consumers. According to Tmall, their alcohol-free beer category saw a 657% YoY GMV increase in 2020. The local market also observed an increase in non-alcoholic beer consumption in the same year.

It’s a trend to look out for, especially because one of China’s biggest beer brands, Tsingtao Beer, already launched a low-calorie and non-alcoholic product line. These beverages work best in attracting the country’s health-conscious Gen Z population.


Tsingdao Non-Alcoholic Beer

Source: China Daily


Top Factors Driving Growth in China’s Beer Industry

  • Rapid urbanization & high disposable income levels

Urbanization has led to a shift in lifestyle, especially among younger people, making it easier for them to access and afford specialty beers. It’s coupled with rising income levels, allowing for increased spending on premium and craft beers.


  • Rising beer consumption among millennials & Gen Z

Gen Z and Millennials in China mainly drive the shift of preference towards premium and craft beers. These groups are more inclined towards high-end products, a trend supported by the growth in net profits and revenues of leading beer producers like CR Beer, Tsingtao Beer, and Yanjing Beer.


  • Low average retail price (ARP) for beer

China’s beer market benefits from a relatively low average retail price for beer, making it accessible to many consumers. This factor, combined with increasing barley imports and the booming e-commerce sector, contributes to the industry’s growth.


How Can Foreign Brands Dominate the Chinese Beer Industry?

●     Develop Brand Visibility in Local Social Media Platforms

Promoting your products in the country’s highly engaged social media channels is an excellent way to take advantage of China’s continuously rising beer consumption.

With 97.7% of the country’s internet users socializing through these platforms, chances are you can easily reach your target audience in these channels. The only problem is the social media landscape in China is different from the West.

Instead of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you’ll have to get familiar with local alternatives like WeChat, Douyin, Little Red Book, and Weibo.


Budweiser’s Campaign for ME3 (Source: adobo Magazine)


Budweiser knew exactly how videos were reigning in China’s social media landscape. So, in 2020, they introduced their new fruit-flavoured flavors called ME3 by launching “Truly Mystical” short video content on Weibo and Douyin. It immediately went viral, with 2.1 billion impressions and 58 million clicks.

This imported beer brand continues to launch promotional campaigns on different social media platforms in China. Right now, Budweiser has over 4.24 million followers on Weibo and 356,000 fans on Douyin. With this many followers, it’s safe to say that the brand already established solid product recognition in China.


●     Optimize Your E-Reputation in Local Forums

While social media campaigns can enhance your brand’s digital visibility, starting conversations in forums is a more effective tool for better local consumer loyalty. Platforms like Baidu Tieba and Zhihu operate in a topical format, allowing users to exchange knowledge and recommendations about anything.

As a verified account, you can interact with other forum users to answer beer-related queries. You can even start the topic yourself. However, it’s worth noting that these platforms value user-generated content. So, if you intend to use it for promotions, we recommend doing so with a soft-selling approach.


A verified Zhihu account of a local craft beer brand

A verified Zhihu account of a local craft beer brand


●     Collaborate with Popular KOLs in the Chinese Beer Market

It’s crucial for imported beers to establish credibility when entering the Chinese market as a new brand. By collaborating with key opinion leaders, foreign marketers can utilize their influence and tap into their loyal fan base.

With the Chinese beer market undergoing a shift to expensive beers, foreign brands can take this opportunity to find a conducive environment for KOL collaborations like e-commerce, short-video apps, and live-streaming platforms.


KOL Collaboration with Heineken on Douyin


●     Enter Through Chinese Cross-Border E-Commerce Channels

Introducing beers to the local market is not as complex as before. With the rise of cross-border e-commerce platforms (CBEC) in China, foreign brands can sell products without establishing a physical store in the country.

The Chinese government has supported the CBEC industry by implementing preferential policies, such as establishing pilot zones and simplifying entry procedures. This support has made it easier for international brands to penetrate the Chinese market without needing a local entity or navigating through the extensive regulatory requirements typical of traditional import channels.

Platforms like Tmall and allow marketers to establish a virtual storefront where potential consumers can browse and buy their products directly from the brand. You can also launch advertisements using different formats to target specific audience groups.


Official Tmall Flagship Store of Carlsberg

Official Tmall Flagship Store of Carlsberg


●     Participating in Beer-Related Events in China

China has a highly engaged consumer market, with spending rates almost always at peak during festivals and holidays. Incorporating official trade events like Qingdao International Beer Festival (China’s Oktoberfest) into your digital marketing campaigns can help your brand resonate with local beer enthusiasts.

In Leffe’s Shanghai Oktoberfest campaign, our team launched giveaways to encourage WeChat users to repost the brand’s content and follow the official account. We also made sure that the marketing messaging and visuals aligned with the event to appeal to existing and potential customers.

After the said event, the campaign managed to generate a sizable follower increase on Leffe’s WeChat brand account. It also accumulated significant local interest in the platform, receiving hundreds of messages.


SDG’s work with Leffe: Social Media Campaigns for Shanghai Oktoberfest


Challenges When Entering The Beer Market in China

Fierce Market Competition

The excessive beer production in the Chinese market means that foreign companies will face intense local competition upon entry. Major domestic companies like CR Snow, Tsingtao Brewery, and Yanjing Beer have a significant market share and distinct geographic branding that allows them to gain the trust of the general public.


Health-conscious Chinese Population

The wellness trend is booming among young consumers in China. As a health-conscious demographic, it also affects their purchasing decisions when it comes to alcoholic beverages.

It’s a force driving interest in premium and non-alcoholic beers, as they’re perceived as higher quality and potentially healthier than mass-produced beers.


Strict Regulatory Landscape

Navigating the regulatory environment in China can be complex for foreign companies. While cross-border e-commerce offers a more streamlined entry into the market, understanding and complying with import regulations, customs duties, and taxes are essential for successfully launching and scaling your business in the country.


Quick Q&A

Why is craft beer popular in China?

Craft beer’s popularity in China is on the rise, fueled by a growing middle class with disposable income eager for unique and diverse alcoholic options. Influences from the West have also played a role. This fascination is further driven by the pursuit of distinctive flavors, catering to an expanding palate among Chinese consumers.

What kind of beer do they drink in China?

In China, the go-to choice for beer is usually a pale lager, but you’ll find a variety of other types, especially in brewpubs popular in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The known names in the Chinese beer market include Tsingtao, Harbin, and Snow, but there are also other major players like Yanjing, San Miguel, Zhujiang, and Reeb that offer their unique brews.


Ready To Dominate The Chinese Beer Market? Get In Touch With Us Today!

With the local market more eager to discover premium quality beers, it’s a golden opportunity for foreign brands to step up their game while the demand is high. It means marketers must be ready with the perfect digital marketing strategy to reach and resonate with their target audience.

At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the trends inherent to the Chinese beer market – including the changing consumer behaviors that shape it. With our extensive expertise in this niche, we offer you the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential and secure a formidable position as a leading entity in the industry.


Sekkei Digital Group Services

Whether it’s crafting compelling social media campaigns or harnessing the power of SEO or KOL marketing strategies, we have the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let’s start working together!


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