Craft ales and imports are adding new sparkle to South Korea's beer market, stealing market share from major domestic producers. Paul Chapman reports.
Beer's gaining a new sparkle in South Korea as sales skyrocket. But the country's domestic producers aren't toasting the massive rise. Imports surged more than 40 per cent last year. Japanese brewers Asahi and Kirin's main brands account for more than a quarter of those imports. European and U.S. brands account for about half. Add the wider choice to lower prices and it's a winning cocktail for some. (SOUNDBITE)(Korean) ELLIA KIM, BEER DRINKER, SAYING: "German beer, for instance, has a rich flavour and provides many types of beers so I prefer this. Comparing the price, it's quite good." Craft beers are also making inroads. There are now more than 1, 000 craft beer pubs compared to just 60 or so five years ago. South Korea's three big domestic brewers have seen their market share plunge from around 99 per cent in 2012 to 87 per cent last year. Some analysts say that far from crying into their beer glasses they'll be forced into action. (SOUNDBITE)(Korean) SONG CHI-HO, ANALYST AT EBEST INVESTMENT AND SECURITIES, SAYING: "Domestic beer brewers are well aware of the crisis. Therefore it's expected they'll actively work to launch new products so they can meet the diversified needs of the consumers." South Koreans are the biggest Asia-Pacific's biggest alcohol drinkers. Beer accounted for more than 40 per cent of a market worth eight billion dollars in 2014.