The world’s major brewer isn’t concerned about analysts’ calls for a potential slowdown in the Chinese economy.
“China is among those places where in the event that you appear at averages, you skip the picture,” Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito told CNBC Thursday on the sidelines of the Fortune Global Discussion board in China.
That’s because AB InBev works in the high-end of the Chinese beer marketplace, a segment that the company thinks will weather a potential slowdown in growth next year.
“Our brands, our activities, our activities that we share with consumers are certainly not in the mainstream part of the marketplace. They happen to be in the top quality and super-premium part of the market, and the ones segments are growing very nicely,” Brito said.
That strategy of concentrating on the high-end of the marketplace appears to be paying down: AB InBev’s earnings in China grew 4.6 percent in the third quarter.
The company cited strong numbers in the Chinese marketplace as a driver for earnings growth in its Budweiser and Corona brands in the first half of the year. Corona and Stella Artois, classified as “super premium” makes by the company, have recorded double digit growth since they were released there in 2014.
That compared with product sales in the U.S., where AB InBev’s Budweiser and Bud Light makes have stumbled as buyers change to craft and imported variants.
With the brewer centered on the growing middle class narrative, investments in China have been directed at the high-end, top quality and super-top quality segment, Brito told CNBC, adding that those were developing above the marketplace average.
As for the brewer’s standing up among younger buyers, he highlighted the importance of connecting AB InBev’s brands “with occasions where consumers value activities.”
“What we see around the world, and China’s zero different, is that young consumers are looking for activities more than items,” Brito stated. He highlighted the 2018 FIFA Universe Cup, of which Budweiser is a worldwide sponsor, as an essential event for the company.