In August-October, 2012, ATO Guangzhou organized two major U.S. craft beer events that set the stage for this year’s rapid growth in sales
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: CH11870
China - Peoples Republic of
Tapping into South China’s growing U.S. Craft Beer Market
Export Accomplishments - Other
Market Development Reports
Summary: Through a series of promotional activities over a two-year period, the U.S. Agricultural
Trade Office (ATO) Guangzhou has partnered with the local trade to promote U.S. craft beers. In 2012,
ATO Guangzhou created two opportunities for U.S. craft beer brands: 1) promotions in Guangzhou’s
Canton Tower; and, 2) product placement in the highest-end retail format supermarket in China: Olé
supermarkets during a national retail promotion. At one of the participating Guangzhou Olé outlets,
U.S. craft beer outsold a number of German, Dutch and Belgian counterparts which has had a much
longer presence in the market than U.S. craft beers. To further stimulate U.S. craft beer sales in the
2013 summer season, ATO Guangzhou devised a market promotion calendar that will be carried out by
In August-October, 2012, ATO Guangzhou organized two major U.S. craft beer events that set the stage
for this year’s rapid growth in sales:
1) U.S. Craft Beer Media Promotion: On August 28, ATO Guangzhou invited a group consisting of 20
lifestyle media outlet representatives (newspaper, television, magazine and online publications),
local beer associations, bars/restaurants purchasing managers, and U.S. craft beer distributors to
attend a beer tasting and food paring dinner event. The dinner was funded by the Country
Strategy Support Fund and held in the ATO Director’s residence. The Marriott China Hotel
Guangzhou’s Head Chef creatively used several U.S. craft beers as ingredients for a three-course
meal. At this dinner, ATO Guangzhou introduced two beer distributors to the Canton Tower
management and discussed the best way to introduce U.S. craft beer to several restaurants at the
Tower. The U.S. Brewers Association (BA) helped prepare the media kits and made menu
By October (only two months after the dinner), the Canton Tower had entered into a
promotion agreement with a local U.S. craft beer distributor to organize an “American BBQ and
Octo-beer-fest” at an out-door river-front patio at the base of the Tower. The timing was
optimal since October has a seven-day long “golden week” holiday and there is a high number
of tourists in Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta as this holiday is also around the same time
as the Canton Fair (which attracts thousands of business people from all around China and the
world involved in manufacturing and trade). This was the first time U.S. craft beer was
introduced at this iconic South China venue. About $5,000 dollars worth of beers were sold
during the promotion period, not a huge amount; however, it was an opportunity for local as
well as many visitors to taste U.S. craft beers for the first time. What’s more, these consumers
associated U.S. craft beer with the tallest and most glamorous marquis building in Guangzhou.
The U.S. craft beer promotion in the Canton Tower was a positive first step in consumer
branding efforts that also raised its (U.S. craft beer) profile with the local food and beverage
One of the participants at the dinner was Sina.com, similar to Twitter it is the online platform
for individual netizens to comment on the latest lifestyle trends, share opinions and comment
on news developments. Sina.com reported a favorable article about the arrival of U.S. craft
beer and the ATO event. Below is the link: http://eat.gd.sina.com.cn/news/2012-09-
Print media coverage included Fine Drink magazine, which is an influential and trusted trade
media outlet for wine, alcohol and spirits products. New restaurants and Food and Beverage
managers as well as more dedicated food and drink enthusiasts in South China rely on Fine
Drink magazine’s coverage to learn more about the latest culinary developments and wine
ATO Guangzhou also received a commitment to support U.S. craft beer’s entry into the South
China market by the leadership of the Guangzhou and Guangdong Province Beer Association
who also attended the event and shared market information on the local beer market and
recommended venues that would raise the profile for new market entrants. ATO Guangzhou
plans further engagement with both local beer associations as they have been generous with
their guidance and would like to hold joint activities in the future.
2) Olé Supermarket American Food Promotion
In September, ATO Guangzhou led a nationwide U.S. food promotion event at the Olé Supermarket
chain – the largest high-end retailer in China. ATO staff introduced an experienced distributor to a craft
beer trader handling several brands of U.S. craft beers from the states of California and New York.
ATO Guangzhou was recently informed by the distributor, the sales in Guangzhou and Shenzhen Olé
outlets were exceptional during the past three months. At the Guangzhou Olé outlet, $3,500-worth of
U.S. craft beer was sold in December 2012 alone with several SKUs selling out. December is regarded
by the trade as the slowest sales period for beer sales. According to the distributor, the sales figures
could have doubled if the importer would have replenished their stocks sooner. The Guangzhou Olé
outlet reported to ATO Guangzhou that U.S. craft beer has the fastest sales growth rate and is one of the
best selling beers only second to the German Paulaner brand, which entered the China market years ago.
Because of the overwhelming success in Guangzhou, many other Olé outlets in different cities have
approached this Guangzhou distributor to follow-up with similar promotions leading into the Lunar New
Year holiday. Other super market retail chains have also taken notice and have tried catch on. This is a
significant breakthrough U.S. craft beer in China, because:
Olé is the leading and largest national high-end imported food retailer in China and ATO
Guangzhou’s work preparing the first national promotion featuring U.S. craft beer will continue
to yield success by bringing greater awareness and recognition to consumers.
This promotion led to the sudden growth in sales in the retail and HRI sector.
Olé sales figures during the promotion provide details about local consumer preferences for
U.S. craft beers. The figures will also support future promotion plans and provide guidance on
introducing new U.S. craft beer brands into China’s retail sector.
3) Past efforts: This seemingly overnight success did not happen in 2012 alone. ATO Guangzhou
started promoting U.S. craft beer since early 2011. On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, ATO Guangzhou
and Brewers Association, U.S.A (BA) jointly hosted an American Craft Beer media seminar and
consumer promotional event in the China Marriott Hotel. Approximately 50 attendees including
traders, retailers, hotel food and beverage directors, and media outlets attended the press
seminar. During the event, attendees learned about the Irish American experience and cultural
aspects of beer drinking by U.S. Consulate’s American staff. After the event, over 300 consumers
attended the open St. Patrick’s Day celebration featuring U.S. craft beers. The event was co-
sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce South China and the European Chambers of
Commerce. ATO Guangzhou also promoted U.S. craft beers at a U.S. hardwood and soft wood
industry reception on March 29, 2011 to an audience of over 100.
Here are some suggestions to keep the momentum going and achieve greater success in 2013:
Hire in-store promoters: For those beers on the retail shelves, U.S. suppliers, importers and
distributors should conduct more in-store activities to support sales and hold consumer
education panels designed to train in-store promoters.
Seminars: In April 2013, BA should organize a bar owner/F&B manager seminar and media
events to prepare the trade and market for summer U.S. craft beer promotions.
Blind tastings: The key is to differentiate U.S. craft beer from other imported beers and to
strengthen branding with local consumers. Activities such as blind tasting competitions and
food pairing events could also be considered during restaurant events such as Guangzhou
Restaurant Week or other culinary promotions.
Branding with the U.S. Consulate: In July, ATO Guangzhou will look for opportunities to
include U.S. craft beers in U.S. Consulate Independence Day events to support the association
with the U.S. brand and exposure to a broader audience beyond bars and supermarket retail.
Online and group sales are an area that has yet to be exploited.
Summer Promotions: In August-September, traders should participate in retail in-store
promotions with alcohol and spirits shops as well as in local bars and restaurants. U.S. craft
beer should differentiate and position itself above other imported beers.
Buyers Mission: BA should prepare a delegation consisting of media and trade representatives
to visit U.S. microbrewers. China has limited knowledge about the U.S. micro brewing industry
and knowledge of U.S. “gastro-pubs” or trendy “beer-bistros”.
Catering to the local palate: Introduce more products that are favored by local consumers.
Here are a few examples:
1. Fruit-forward flavors: These flavors pair well with heavier flavored dishes and are more
welcoming than bitter tastes by the local patrons.
2. Heath benefits: Ginger and ginseng are considered healthy ingredients in China,
although, food and beverage containing ginseng ingredients may need to apply for a
special permit if the content exceeds the standard set by China’s State Food and Drug
Administration. Visit http://www.fws.gov/international/plants/american-ginseng.html
for more information. Also products with no additives or low on preservatives will be
preferred by local consumers suspicious of artificial enhancers that could pose a threat
to their health.
3. Special water: Chinese consumers are willing to pay a premium for beer made from
spring or deep underground water. These marketing claims play well with local
Contact ATO Guangzhou: According to BA’s reports, the top craft beer producing U.S. states
include California (238 breweries); Washington (121); Oregon (118); Colorado (114); Michigan
(85); Pennsylvania (72); and Wisconsin (67). Producers and exporters in those States or others
should contact ATO Guangzhou to see how their products fit into upcoming promotions we are
Cold Chain Service Providers: BA’s China in-country representative should help importers seek
reliable and efficient cold chain service providers since most craft beers have relatively short
Conclusion: In summary, China is the largest beer producer and also has the largest number of beer
drinkers in the world. As the Chinese currency strengthens (when compared to the U.S. dollar) and the
economy expands, many new consumers will begin to purchase imported beer with higher frequency.
According to past promotions, local beer drinkers are responding positively to news about the diversity
created by the U.S. micro brewing/culinary industry. According to BA, the industry currently provides
an estimated 104,000 full-time and part-time jobs, significantly contributing to the U.S. economy. “The
United States has resources and China has the market”.