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Vietnam drinks its way to being Asia’s third-biggest alcohol consumer: study

Drinkers cheer their glasses of beer at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.
Drinkers cheer their glasses of beer at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam’s alcoholic beverage market is becoming a battleground for several foreign beer producers looking to carve out a foothold in Asia’s third-largest alcohol consuming country.

Vietnamese men are among the top alcohol consumers in the world, according to the 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study, a survey on the consumption of alcoholic beverages in 195 countries and territories taken between 1996 and 2006 and recently published in the UK’s Lancet medical journal.

According to the study, Vietnamese men down more than five standard glasses of alcohol per day, defining a “standard drink” as one containing ten grams of alcohol.

Globally, only Portugal and countries on the Balkan Peninsula matched Vietnam’s seemingly unquenchable thirst.

The report also noted that the proportion of people consuming alcoholic beverages in Vietnam is moderate for men, with 40-60 percent indulging, while less than 20 percent of women consume alcoholic drinks.

Vietnam’s global ranking in beer and alcohol consumption has also increased at an extremely rapid pace.

According to the World Health Organization, Vietnam was the world’s 94th largest beer consumer in 2010. Just six years later, in 2016, it jumped 30 spots to 64th place, making it the third-largest in Asia.

On average, each Vietnamese aged 15 and over consumes 8.3 liters of alcohol per year.

The hike in alcohol consumption also is the drive for Vietnam’s production of alcoholic beverages to continue its rapid growth.

Drive for production

In 2017, Vietnam’s beer production output topped four billion liters, up 10.4 percent from 2016.

This figure means that each Vietnamese consumed 45 liters of beer that year, 1.5 times higher than 2014.

The amount also implies that Vietnam’s alcohol consumption is somewhat beyond prediction as the Southeast Asian country hit the target that its beer industry set out for 2020 four years earlier than scheduled.

As for alcohol, Vietnam consumed 188 million liters in 2016.

The cost of alcohol consumption in Vietnam is about US$3.4 billion a year and makes up roughly three percent of the government’s budget.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, production and revenues in the liquor industry during the first nine months of 2018 achieved 8.8 percent growth compared to the same period in 2017.

Beer production rose 7.1 percent compared to the same period of 2017. Overall 2018 growth is forecast at six percent.

Among that, Vietnam’s biggest beer brewers, Sabeco and Habeco, contributed 1.77 billion liters and 657.6 million liters, respectively.

The remaining quantity is shared by foreign enterprises and small and medium Vietnamese enterprises.

Currently, Vietnam’s beer market has attracted the presence of most of the world’s major beer companies including Carlsberg, Heineken, Masan Brewery, Sapporo, and AB InBev.

According to Nguyen Van Viet, chairman of the Vietnam Beer Alcohol Beverage Association (VBA), domestic brewers have faced tough competition from foreign entrants in 2018.

Vietnam’s beer industry has set a target of producing 4.1 billion liters of beer per year for the next four years and 5.6 billion liters per year by 2035, meaning output is expected to increase by half over the next two decades.