Beer-thirsty Vietnamese force supermarkets to ration sales before Lunar New Year

By VnExpress   January 13, 2017 | 05:58 am PT
Beer-thirsty Vietnamese force supermarkets to ration sales before Lunar New Year
Men drink Saigon beer at a restaurant in Hanoi. Beer sales in Vietnam have been climbing at at least double the pace of gross domestic product growth in the past five years. Photo by Reuters
Panic-buying has ensued with prices expected to rise ahead of Tet.

With people buying up beer in bulk ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations, a rationing system has been put in place by many supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City.

When Hanh, a regular at a supermarket in District 2, noticed supermarket staff busy stacking piles of crates of beer, she decided to buy a few just in case beer prices go up before the Tet holidays.

“I bet the price will be even higher next week,” said Hanh “ Just three weeks ago, a crate of Heineken beer only cost VND350,000 ($15) but now the price tag reads VND397,000 ($18).”

Hong, the owner of a convenience store in Go Vap District, forecast a surge in demand over the next few weeks.

“Demand has increased at speed in the past few days,” Hong said, attributing the surge to people buying beer as holiday gifts for relatives, colleagues and friends.

This thirst has also forced many restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City to put in place a rationing system, limiting the number of cans a customer can buy per visit.

In an attempt to prevent hoarding, a supermarket chain has even put up a notice asking customers to buy no more than two crates of beer.

However, major brewers told VnExpress that the supply is ample.

“We confirm there have been no changes to our prices. Our stock is enough to satisfy the market demand, which might increase by about 20 percent,” said a Heineken communications officer.

Japanese brewer Sapporo said it has increased output by 20 percent from the same period last year to quench the thirst.

Vietnam’s beer market is projected to grow about 40 percent by 2019, according to Euromonitor.

Over the past five years, Vietnam has doubled its beer consumption to more than 3 billion liters per year. Each Vietnamese person drank on average 27.4 liters, making them the heaviest beer drinkers in Southeast Asia, the third in Asia and in the world’s top 25 heaviest beer drinkers.

Foreign beer giants are aggressively pouring money into Vietnam.

Dutch beverage Heineken has identified Vietnam as the next key driver for its growth in Asia Pacific and is pouring money into the country, which is second only to Mexico in terms profitability, said the company’s Asia Pacific President Frans Eusman.

Japanese brewer Sapporo, which started tapping into Vietnam’s beer market in 2010 by acquiring a local company in a deal worth $8.28 million, is aiming for a 70 percent increase in the number of local stores and restaurants carrying its premium brew.

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