AB Inbev brews up prospects in China

The world’s largest beer brewer is bullish about the prospects of Chinese consumption and the country’s growing economy, and plans to accelerate its investments in China and focus on premium and diversified products, its top executive said during a visit to Beijing last week.

Michel Doukeris, chief executive officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev, a multinational drinks conglomerate headquartered in Belgium, said China is a destination for the company’s investment in many areas, including talent, facilities, production, sourcing and sales.

Doueris met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on Friday.

After taking trips to restaurants, bars and retailers in Beijing, where in some instances Doukeris and his team saw people waiting two hours for a table, the CEO said he was very glad to see the rebound of consumption in China.

He expressed high hopes for the growth of its business in the country. “As the country grows, as the market develops, I think that we’re gonna see our products getting more and more distribution and being present in more regions in China,” Doukeris said.

AB InBev has operated in the country since 1984, with cumulative investment of over 30 billion yuan.

The CEO, who lived in China between 2010 and 2017, said the company has used China as a source of inspiration for other markets and operations they have globally.

“Sometimes you see innovations in Asia and in China specifically that do not exist in other markets. So today, there is cross-learning that we adapt through the communities that we have inside the company,” he added.

Some of the most advanced breweries in the world, technologically and in terms of productivity, are in China, the CEO said.

“And every year we bring our people from other parts of the globe to learn what we are doing in China and how we can copy and adapt some of these best practices to other markets,” he said.

“Making beer inclusive, natural and local” is one of the key messages the brewery has conveyed through their product portfolio.

Hoegaarden, for instance, is a beer that has huge consumption among women and young people, Doukeris said.

The company will continue to focus on “premiumization” and innovation to meet diversified consumer needs, including continued trends such as the She Economy and healthy lifestyles.

Efforts will also be made to strengthen the company’s digitization strategy and e-commerce channels, the executive said.

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