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SABMiller top gun wants beer bottlenecks removed

Mumbai, Dec. 14: Beer has a huge potential for growth in India, according to SABMiller plc corporate affairs director Sue Clark.

Clark, who was in the country recently, said 15 years ago China was in a similar situation that India is in now.

India has a low per capita annual consumption of beer at 0.6 litre, while the per capita consumption in China has grown to 18 litres. SABMiller's foray into China has started yielding impressive results, Clark told The Telegraph.

The per capita consumption in most developed economies is over 100 litres.

The existing regulatory framework in India hinders the growth of the beer segment, said Clark. SABMiller introduced Castle Lager in India, but Clark said the focus would be on the growing Indian brands. “Whenever we enter a market, we try to build local brands,” she said.

SABMiller has a joint venture with Shaw Wallace, which led to the formation of a beer entity with an infrastructure of 22 breweries in its ambit that includes 11 contracted units.

The SABMiller-Shaw Wallace joint venture has been the market leader in the strong beer segment with a little less than 50 per cent of the market share. The portfolio is driven by Haywards 5000 accounting for 28 per cent of the strong beer segment.

However, in the mild beer segment, it is behind the United Breweries group. The ratio of mild to strong beer in the country has shifted from 66:34 in the year 1993-94 to 37:63 in 2002-03.

According to Clark, the beer habits in the country are not developed. Beer makers have to face the challenges of a regulated environment and the restrictive licensing policies.

SABMiller has always worked with state governments, preferably through industry associations, in de-regulating the industry.

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