Short version of beer article
Cool facts about beer
Do you know that ancient documents listed beer as medical prescriptions in Egyptian culture? During the medieval times, beer was used as a ‘currency’, both for trading and tax payments. And Babylonian clay tablets going back 4,000 years have been found containing recipes for beer.
Beer has long been a popular drink worldwide throughout time. Each culture has its own ingredients - Chinese used wheat to make samsu, Japanese used rice to make sake, with sorghum used by other Asian cultures. But the mainstream beer many are familiar today were introduced to Southeast Asia from the west. The principle brewing methods are generally similar with main ingredients being malt, hops, barley, yeast and in some cases, rice.
A few players dominate the beer brewing trade in the region. Consumers identify them by the brands, rather than their companies – for example, Singha from Thailand, San Miguel from Philippines, Tiger from Singapore and Bintang from Indonesia.
The choice of beer drinkers is limited to the main types brewed locally or imported by the major players. Mainly lager, ale, porter or stout, they have satiated thirst among blue-collar workers, men and sports fans. However, the nineties heralded dramatic changes to the business environment.
Higher disposable income provided incentives for brewers to eye niche markets. Among other varieties, this led to the development of light and premium beers as well as iced beer. The past decade also saw ‘designer’ or craft beer brewers springing up. Establishing themselves as more than a passing fad, they range from brew pubs to micro-breweries. They satisfy the growing sophistication and taste of consumers with specially flavoured beer – from fruity, chocolate to smoked beer. Today’s working women make up another distinct market segment that is drawing the attention of brewers.
These specialty brewers cater to consumers looking for beer with unique character and flavour.
As traditional and matured markets can no longer be counted upon for higher sales, brewers have to develop strategies to counter the trend. Worldwide, the industry has been going through an accelerated consolidation phase in the past few years. The convergence of consumer tastes is one other driver for the globalisation.
A US market research firm, McKinsey & Co., projected that the international beer “profit pool” could grow to US$28 billion by 2010. In Asia, mergers and acquisitions between local, regional and international players are common-placed as brewers move to invest in new growth markets, but with mixed fortunes. Asia is seen as a region with greatest growth potential but its diversity is as challenging as it is daunting.
Written by Ng Ek Heng