Carlsberg’s sales jumped 9% thanks to drinkers switching to premium beer

Danish brewer Carlsberg’s beer sales jumped 9% in the first three months of 2019, helped in part by drinkers trading up to its premium portfolio in Asia.

Premiumisation is boosting Carlsberg’s sales. (Photo: Carlsberg)

“We had a good start to the year,” chief executive Cees t’ Hart said in an emailed statement, adding the brewer benefitted from “particularly strong volume growth in Asia and continued solid progress of our craft and speciality, and alcohol-free portfolios.”

Sales came in at 13.89 billion DKK (£1.6 billion), slightly above the expectations of analysts at Reuters.

Carlsberg returned to growth for the first time in three years last year, having implemented a number of cost-cutting measures in 2015, when Hart took over.

The beer giant said its price mix was strong across all of its international markets, indicating that more consumers are opting for beers within its premium portfolio.

Although the company didn’t reveal its profits for the first quarter, it still expected earnings to sit at a mid single digit percentage.

Net revenue rose to by 6.4% DKK 62.5 billion (£7.4 million) over the whole of 2018, while operating profits grew organically up to DKK 9.3 billion, up 11% from 2017.

The brewer’s sales in Europe were boosted by a combination of the World Cup and an extended summer heatwave.

Carlsberg has been investing in its premium offerings worldwide, and looks set to build on its growth success in Asia. It acquired a minority stake in Chinese craft brewer Jing-A in March this year, set up in 2012 with “a couple of 20-litre buckets, a handful of ingredients and a dream to brew the best possible beer in China.”

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it marks Carlsberg’s growing interest in the small but increasingly dynamic Chinese craft beer market.

China is already the world’s biggest beer market. According to Euromonitor International, the country drank 25 billion litres of beer in 2015, almost twice that of the US.

Carlsberg recently launched a new marketing campaign in the UK which admits its flagship lager is “probably not the best beer in the world”, while at the same time promoting a new, premium-positioned pilsner.

The new beer, which is brewed at its UK production facility in Northampton, is made from a “Danish recipe and Danish ingredients.”

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