Japan's Asahi mounts promotional onslaught on China

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BEIJING -- Japanese beer brand Asahi will launch a massive sales campaign this month on the Chinese mainland in a bid to spread its influence and expand market share.

Asahi plans to launch prime-time TV commercials on China Central Television, the only national TV station in China, and local TV stations in areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Dalian, according to China Business newspaper. The ad campaign - reportedly worth several million dollars - will also include ads on buses, neon lights and street lightboxes in major cities.

In addition, models will make appearances in major department stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the country's three largest commercial centers, to promote Asahi beer.

The beer marketer's move is backed by a recent survey conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Guangzhou, in which 85% of 2,000 people surveyed said they would like to taste Asahi beer.

Asahi expects the campaign to help bring its annual beer sales in the Chinese mainland market to 8,000 tons this year, rising to 10,000 tons in 1999.

A survey conducted by the China Council of Light Industry indicates China is now the world's second largest country for beer consumption. By 2000, the country's beer production will hit 20 million tons, making China the world's largest beer producing and consuming nation. Although the production figure is enormous, the market potential is still large: Annual per capita consumption of beer among China's 1.2 billion-strong population is still low, at just 13 liters, compared to the world average of 25 liters. In Japan, the figure is 56 liters; in the U.S. it's 86 liters, and in Germany it's 138 liters.

Asahi currently has one joint venture, in Yantai in East China's Shandong Province, in which to produce its beer in China. Another brewery, in Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province, is expected to be operational next year. The two joint breweries are expected to satisfy the needs of both north and south China markets.

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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