Total volume sales of beer suffered a sharp decline as a result of the pandemic in 2020. From the perspective of the on-trade, due to the nationwide lockdowns and cancellation of social and festival gatherings, consumption in this channel, which includes restaurants and bars, was severely impacted, especially during the Spring Festival, when the COVID-19 outbreak started in China.
E-commerce recorded strong share growth in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic. Even after strict lockdowns ended, many consumers continued to spend more time at home and chose to shop online rather than risk social contact in stores.
Although off-trade consumption was being dragged down by home seclusion and nationwide lockdowns, the growth rate of premium products still outperformed the overall category in beer in 2020. More upmarket products such as Weissbier, stout, mid-priced and premium lager all recorded positive growth rates in terms of off-trade sales volume, which was underpinned by the premiumisation trend observed among products, people and places.
Beer is expected to see a modest rebound in 2021, with positive growth of just under 1% in total volume terms. This can be attributed to consumers embracing a return to normality, leading to a resumption of drinking occasions, although the increasing health and wellness awareness could adversely affect the consumption of beer.
As a still relatively new and niche product in China, craft beer was recording a double-digit growth rate in total volume terms over the review period, and continued seeing positive growth during the pandemic. The promising performance of craft beer can be attributed to efforts by both large beer manufacturers and craft beer manufacturers.
Although it was impacted by the pandemic in 2020, the premiumisation of beer in China has not really been slowing down or stopping, and it will continue to develop over the forecast period. Premiumisation is not a trend that has suddenly appeared in beer in recent times, having been present in the marketplace during the review period.
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