Jennifer Zegler
Jenny Zegler is an Associate Director of Food and Drink at Mintel. Jenny blends her trends expertise with food and drink topics such as health, formulation, sustainability and premiumization.

The Chinese beer market continues to welcome more premium options. The preference for better-quality beer is reflected in Mintel predictions that value sales of beer are slated to grow slightly, while volume sales will decline in China through 2023. As premiumization elevates China’s beer category, brands can stand out by revealing more about what makes their products unique.

Disclose details about flavor and ingredients

To differentiate from rising competition between premium domestic, imported and craft beer, brands in China would benefit from communicating details about the ingredients, brewing method, flavors and aromas used in their processes.

For example, Guinness’ Stout can released in China in January 2019 explains: “the beer has notes of roasted coffee, chocolate, the bitter taste of hops, sweet taste from malt and caramel flavor from roasted barley.” The description introduces the beer’s ingredients while also guiding the tasting experience for consumers.

Highlighting beer flavors will help adults determine their own personal taste preferences and better communicate with servers and retail personnel. Informed consumers can also share their knowledge with family, friends, business colleagues and others, helping more adults navigate the beer selection in China.

Only a few Chinese launches communicate on flavor

On-pack descriptions are an ideal place to inform consumers about the product’s taste, but flavor can also be highlighted via pop-up shops, brewery tours and tasting events.

Tsingtao Pilsner Beer (China): This domestic beer is said to be bitter, fresh, creamy, smooth and slightly sweet.

Anton’s Special Five Wheat Beer (China): This imported beer is said to be a top-fermented crisp pale wheat beer made with fine yeast, adding a fruity and floral aroma of banana.

China’s emerging craft beer is a forum to teach beer styles, tastes and flavors

Craft beer lacks an official definition in China, but many adults believe it to be more premium or higher in quality than regular beer. According to Mintel research on beer in China, more than one-third of Chinese adults have consumed craft beer, as of September 2018, while more than half of Chinese adults have not tried it yet, but would like to.

Craft breweries can use their own space or host events in restaurants, bars and nightclubs to educate consumers about the ingredients, brewing processes and tasting notes of certain beers and beer styles. Educational events would be particularly well-suited to cities. In particular, our research shows that interest in trying craft beer is high in Chengdu, Wuhu, Fuzhou, Zibo and other Tier 1-3 cities.

What we think

With increasing varieties of beer in the market, Chinese consumers value quality more than quantity, which indicates they are becoming more sophisticated beer drinkers. As the taste of the beer is the key for consumers to differentiate beer quality, brands could communicate their ingredients used, brewing method, special flavors and aromas to help beer drinkers make purchasing decisions and assist consumers in the process of beer tasting.