Beer giant reaches for Asia Pacific growth with its first Vietnam brewery

The world’s leading brewer has given beer lovers in Vietnam something to celebrate by opening a large brewery in southern Binh Duong province. AB InBev Vietnam, whose parent company AB InBev is known for brands such as Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona, Beck’s, Leffe and Hoegaarden, began producing the popular tipple after opening in May.

Located only 40 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, the factory will produce up to 100 million liters of Beck’s and Budweiser a year, ensuring more of the globally recognizable products will line the country’s bar shelves. Targeting Vietnam was an unprecedented move for the corporate giant, but one that made sense. A burgeoning middle class is leading the consumer charge, making Vietnam the fastest growing beer market in Southeast Asia.

The younger generation is also impacting demand. The Vietnam Growth Report 2015 indicated that Vietnam’s 90-million strong population includes a high rate of young people, with 85 percent aged under 40 – a perfect audience for gigantic beer companies.

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“Vietnam is the most exciting country out of the four countries I’ve lived,” says Ricardo Vasques, General Director of AB InBev Vietnam. “The market is huge and growing, people are sharp, hardworking and eager for developing opportunities and the government agencies we had contact with were very proactive to support foreign investments. I have come to admire their enthusiasm and dedication to getting things done efficiently.”

Companies have predicted the country will be a major player in the development of Southeast Asia’s beer industry within the next few years. AB InBev’s symbolic decision to launch an operation here has shown the industry is finally placing its bets.

Ricardo’s leadership will be driven by a personal passion for the drink as well as suave business acumen. “I am fascinated about the fact that brewmasters are able to do so much with barley, hops, yeast and water,” says Ricardo, who joined AB InBev 12 years ago in Brazil and moved to Vietnam in February. “Brewing beer is one of the finest examples of our ability to use nature’s own processes such as fermentation to meet our needs, not to mention this amazing ability to bring people together. That is why beer has been around for more than 8,000 years. It has been part of the culture of every major civilization throughout history.”

Budweiser, touted as ‘The King of Beers,” will be the company’s main focus. The US’s most iconic brew, enjoyed for its lightness and crisp finish, will have a fight on its hands in a crowded beer market, overflowing with favorites such as Biere Larue, Saigon Red and 333. AB InBev is confident the drink will take off. “Vietnamese consumers have shown a great appreciation for Budweiser in the last few years,” says Ricardo. “We are gradually increasing the awareness for Budweiser and marketing its high quality and fine taste to consumers. We believe our presence in Vietnam will effectively enhance customers’ preference for Budweiser and boost its sales over time.”

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Vietnam is ranked third for beer consumption within the region, partly because of an increase in disposable income and an insatiable thirst for the stuff. As its population grows and workers earn more, there will be a rising demand for premium consumer goods. Over the past year AB InBev has sold more than 42.5 billion liters of beer and recorded revenue of up to USD43.2 billion. With its wide range of products, it’s in a strong position to offer Vietnamese beer lovers a choice of international beverages.

“Consumers want to make choices that can offer them new and unique experiences,” adds Ricardo. “Vietnam is an attractive investment destination today. With its vibrant economy, business- friendly policies and educated work force, we believe in the long-term growth potential of the Vietnam market.”

Initially, the factory at the VSIP II-A Industrial Park, built on an area of 100,000sqm, will serve Vietnamese consumers. However, AB InBev says there’s potential for future exports to other countries thanks to Vietnam’s location at the center of Southeast Asia. The company cites people as “their most valuable assets” and will create opportunities for locals in the area.

Ricardo further adds: “Our activities in Vietnam will allow us to be much more active in the region, not only with regards to our production facilities, but also by building a local talent pool. With our brewery established here, we aim to bring not only more jobs to Binh Duong and Vietnam, but also offer our talents access to AB InBev’s extensive opportunities of training, career development and a safe working environment where they will be rewarded for excellent contributions. I think this is very exciting for everyone.”