Sri Lankan beer brews up business in China
Tourists drink beer during the 28th Qingdao International Beer Festival in Qingdao, a coastal city in East China's Shandong province, July 31, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]
QINGDAO -- Ranil Oninda recently did a "brave" thing -- promoting Sri Lankan beer in Qingdao, a coastal Chinese city best known for its century-old brewer Tsingtao.
As a marketing consultant for Lion Holdings Trading (Shenzhen) Limited, Oninda distributed the signature black beer to visitors for a taste in the just-concluded Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) International Trade and Investment Fair.
The three-day fair which closed Sunday has attracted more than 400 companies and other institutions, including over 150 from overseas. The fair exhibits the cultural industries, tourism, home appliances and other products of SCO member states.
It was not the first time for him to showcase the Lion beer from Sri Lanka in China. "With closer trading ties between the two countries, it is easier to do business with Chinese clients," he said.
Two months ago, Oninda brought 48 containers of roughly 2.5 million bottles of Lion beer to China. The beers have been quickly snapped up by customers in provinces such as Guangdong, Hubei and Hunan.
Even if the first battle was won, Oninda still worried before marching to Qingdao in Shandong Province, the birthplace of the world-famous Tsingtao beer. Beer drinking is a distinctive lifestyle in Qingdao, where picky residents often buy the freshest beer from breweries, usually in plastic bags.
"China is the largest beer market in the world, with Tsingtao beer accounting for a significant market share. But the high-quality craft beer we are producing represents the trend of future consumption," Oninda said. "In the future, we want to export more beer to China to satisfy the demands of local consumers."
Unlike a typical five-day brewing cycle, it takes 20 to 25 days to produce the Lion beer. The brand takes around 85 percent of market share in Sri Lanka and has been exported to many countries around the world.
Beer sales in China are expected to increase from 562.6 billion yuan (around $81.4 billion) last year to 727.5 billion yuan in 2022 at an average annual growth of 6.5 percent, according to a research report by Askci Consulting.
The Chinese market is traditionally dominated by domestic brewers, but recent years have seen rapid growth in more expensive international brands.
Forty-three years after Lion built its first brewhouse in Sri Lanka in 1860, the predecessor of Tsingtao was founded by German and British merchants in Qingdao.
"Lion was designated in 2017 as the franchiser of Tsingtao beer in Sri Lanka," Oninda recalled the first encounter of the two brands that have together boosted the beer market as Tsingtao gaining fame in his home country.
Now, the Sri Lankan brewer, with world-class brewing technology and equipment, is having a "head-on confrontation" with its Chinese counterpart in the away game.
This beer brand cooperation is an epitome of the surging bilateral economic and trade exchanges between China and Sri Lanka. As of December 2018, China became Sri Lanka's second largest source of import with an annual bilateral import and export of goods reaching 4.35 billion U.S. dollars.
A growing number of countries, including Sri Lanka, have promoted multi-investment, free trade and cultural exchanges under the Belt and Road Initiative and the SCO.
Having lived in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen for five years, Oninda looks to the future with full confidence as he has learned more about the market and enterprises in China.
He said he believes that Lion beer will win a place on the Chinese market, and Tsingtao will become more popular among Sri Lankans.