SABMiller, the brewing giant, reports that lager sales in China rose 17% in Q2 2009, in sharp contrast to the European beer market where the weight of the recession cut beer sales 7%.
Elsewhere, lager volumes were stable compared with the same quarter last year. In South Africa, the market grew by 2% while in the US volumes dropped just 0.8%.
Graham Mackay, chief executive of UK-listed SABMiller, commenting on the group's out-performance in China, said:
China's organic lager volumes grew 17% in a resilient economy, led by a strong performance in the Central region and further national market share gains for the Snow brand.”
Unknown outside of China, Xue Hua literally means “snow flower”, hence the reason the beer is also referred to as Chinese Snow Beer.
It is brewed by China Resources and SABMiller in a joint venture and is now the biggest beer in the world in terms of volume produced.
According to the Financial Times, Snow Beer's strongest growth came from from China's central regions, as the souring employment markets forced migrant workers to abandon factories and construction sites in the coastal cities and return to their homes. Beer-drinking presumably helps them forget about their enforced idleness.
Other western breweries are also trying to gain a foothold in China's beer market — see this story for example.
More on the rise of Snow Beer in this (free) Wall Street Journal article.