For some people, a pint of beer is a regular thing each week. Add all your pints of beer together, then add your friend’s pints, their friends’ pints and … you get the idea. Once you’ve done that for the entire population, you have an estimate of total beer consumption in the UK. This can then be compared with total consumption of beer in other countries and between continents.
Prior to 2007, Europe and the Americas were the biggest beer drinking continents, but since then, Asia has emerged as the leader of pints of beer consumed, drinking 67bn litres of beer compared with the Americas’ 57bn and Europe’s 51bn in 2011. In per capita terms, Asia is still some way off, with Japan leading the way as the highest Asian country in 41st place, consuming 64 litres of beer per year per capita of the population. So how is this relevant to economics and business?
Consumption of anything provides jobs – bar workers, manufacturers and in the case of beer, probably law enforcement! It probably also increases utility – after all, why consume it if it’s not going to give you some degree of satisfaction!
We can analyse the demand for beer and see how it varies with changes in price and income. Minimum prices for alcohol have been proposed as a means of reducing consumption, and tax and excise duties are always linked to alcoholic beverages and clearly have an effect on demand. In this case, however, we can also consider the emergence of Asia and how tastes have changed. It is the fastest growing beer market in the world; so what can we deduce from that? As the BBC News article states, it is ‘a sign of a young, upwardly mobile, and increasingly hedonistic population.’
Experts also say that the increased consumption of beer in Asian countries is closely correlated with growing incomes and prosperity. A consumer research analyst from Standard Chartered, Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, said:
“Beer has a clearer correlation with strong economic growth … People tend to drink beer in times of growth. They drink spirits when times are good and when times are bad.”
Data suggest that when a certain level of prosperity is reached in a nation, beer sales begin to rise. As many Asian economies begin to develop rapidly, beer sales have taken off. This could be regarded as a good thing for Europe. With stagnant Western economies, beer producers within Europe may be grateful for a growing demand in Asia. Indeed, many of the world’s biggest breweries are expanding rapidly, providing jobs and income. Consumers in Europe will also be happy to see that beer production remains profitable in other parts of the world. With unemployment still high and recession ongoing, a pint of beer will be a much needed pick-me-up for many people. At least, that’s what the evidence from the Great Depression of the 1930s suggested!!
It’s not good news for everyone, however. Beer production has also increased in Asian countries, most notably in China, which now leads the world as the largest beer producer. This clearly reduces the export potential for European beer producers.
Also, many argue that the growing consumption of beer in Asia is simply an illustration of growing Western influence and it is likely to create severe medical problems in the future. Binge drinking and under-age consumption is already a big problem in Western countries and this could soon begin to extend across the world. The following articles consider the growth in consumption of beer.
Brewers thirsty for expansion as taste for beer grows in emerging markets Guardian, Simon Neville (3/9/12)
Beer in Asia: the drink of economic growth BBC News, Saira Syed (6/9/12)
Study says world beer production hits new high Long Island Business News, Associated Press (8/8/12)
Global beer sales go up for 27th year running News Track India (9/8/12)
- Use a supply and demand diagram to analyse recent trends in beer consumption across the world.
- Which factors have caused demand in emerging markets to increase? Based on your answer to the previous question, how might that have affected equilibrium prices?
- How has growth in beer consumption throughout Asia benefited Western producers?
- What would you expect the price and income elasticities of demand to be for a product such as beer? Explain your answer.
- To what extent do you think this trend in beer production is a sign of globalisation?
- Evaluate the extent to which the growth in consumption and production of beer in Asia is a good thing. You should consider everyone who and everything might be affected!