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Alcoholic drinks manufacturers have experienced many unexpected factors such as slow economy growth, the anti-extravagance campaign, intense market competition and changing consumer needs. In such a background, alcoholic drinks manufacturers have been more focused on stimulating consumption by exploring niche categories. One obvious trend during the review period was developing categories such as stout, dark beer and cider/perry.

In 2015 stout and dark beer experienced notable growth due to multiple reasons. The increasing amount of imported beer has made a great contribution to the sales boom in stout and dark beer. Thanks to the expansion of e-business and the development of logistics, the awareness and penetration of stout and dark beer quickly increased among consumers during the review period. Besides this, major players have been producing their stout and dark beer in recent years. For example, Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd has promoted its Tsingtao Stout and Tsingtao Wheat Beer through its own e-commerce platform and other popular internet channels such as Tmall.com, JD.com and Yihaodian.com. Moreover, Beijing Yanjing Brewery Co Ltd has organised marketing activities to increase the awareness of Yanjing Original Weissbier and has performed well. In addition, two premium brands, Hoegaarden and Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, which have been introduced by Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Carlsberg Brewery Guangdong Ltd respectively, became the most popular weissbier brands in premium on-trade channels during the review period. Even though these two niche categories have a relatively smaller base than others, stout and dark beer are enjoying increasing popularity among consumers due to their higher quality, rich taste, affordable prices and premium image.

Compared with beer, wine and spirits, the volume size of cider/perry is negligible in China. However, facing fierce competition, players in this niche category promoted certain new launches in the review period. For example, in the end of 2014 Shanghai Asia Pacific Brewery Co Ltd, owned by Heineken NV, introduced Strongbow cider in China. Moreover, Anheuser-Busch InBev entered cider/perry by launching Johnny Appleseed Cider in 2015. Both new brands are intended to enrich their owners’ product portfolios as well as to attract women and young drinkers.

Outlook

The alcoholic drinks industry has experienced a trading-up process, which will enable niche categories to carry on being developed in the forecast period. There are various drivers. Firstly, manufacturers will continue to upgrade their product structures to increase their premium brand portfolio. Niche categories such as dark beer, stout and cider/perry provide a chance for them to enrich their product mix and enhance their profitability. Their target audience will be young consumers, who prefer to maximise their drinking experience and have stronger purchasing power. Diversified alcoholic products are therefore expected to be introduced in the forecast period to cater for younger consumers

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