‘Never stand still’: Carlsberg eyes top premium beer ranking in Malaysia with Sapporo partnership

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Carlsberg Malaysia is optimistic about its chances to conquer the country’s premium Japanese beer market this year with new partner brand Sapporo. ©Sapporo Malaysia
Carlsberg Malaysia is optimistic about its chances to conquer the country’s premium Japanese beer market this year with new partner brand Sapporo. ©Sapporo Malaysia

Related tags Carlsberg Sapporo Beer

Carlsberg Malaysia is optimistic about its chances to conquer the country’s premium Japanese beer market this year with new partner brand Sapporo, with the latter formally replacing Asahi as the firm’s major premium Japanese offering since January 2024.

Carlsberg previously had an exclusive partnership with Asahi Super Dry beer in Malaysia, holding the sole distribution rights to the brand in the country for over a decade – this partnership officially ended​ on December 31 2023 with Carlsberg Malaysia Managing Director Stefano Clini calling it an ‘amicable parting’.

Starting January 1 2024, Carlsberg Malaysia entered a new exclusive partnership in the country with Sapporo, hoping to achieve equal if not better results with this new collaborator.

“Here at Carlsberg, our brands never stand still and we are further upping and expanding our investments into premium as we view this as an important sweet spot to meet both consumer and investor demands,”​ Clini told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“Sapporo is the oldest premium beer brand in Japan and this spells well for us here as well – it is just the beginning of our partnership as we have just debuted the locally-brewed Sapporo here in Malaysia, but so far things are smelling and tasting good.”

When asked about consumer and marketing strategies the company has planned for Sapporo, Clini added that there are major opportunities to be pursued on the back of Sapporo’s solid product and reputation.

“We will definitely invest solidly into this to reach as many consumers as possible, not only our existing premium beer consumers but also new ones,”​ he said.

“It is of course up to consumers whether they choose to consume Sapporo, but we now have an added advantage in being able to offer Sapporo as a draft beer off-premise which we could not do previously, and this will mean much greater opportunities to gain exposure at more new outlets, as well as to reach consumers that prefer drafts.

“The target is premium beer drinkers, and although we can’t say that all previous Asahi drinkers would convert to Sapporo, there is a good chance that there will be significant interest from this group as well as new consumers that are familiar with the Sapporo brand.

“All in all, I am quite optimistic that Sapporo [has the potential to] be the number one Japanese beer brand in Malaysia by far.”

Seeking stability

Carlsberg’s ability to offer Malaysian consumers locally-brewed Sapporo could certainly open up major market opportunities for the firm in the premium space given current economic concerns and supply chain cost challenges, both of which are particularly concerning in Malaysia given the weak exchange rate.

“Carlsberg remains mindful of the prevailing uncertainty in the economic landscape due to high interest rates, continuing inflationary pressures, currency fluctuations and impacts of the Sales and Services Tax (SST) [which is set to increase in March],”​ Clini added.

“Additionally, the exchange rate has also not been so good with the Malaysian Ringgit dropping to about RM4.80 per US$1 – this will definitely have an impact on the cost of raw materials as well as logistics.

“Consumer behaviour is already cautious due to prices increasing, so it is possible that the SST will have an impact here, but we really don’t know yet how this will be affected – what Carlsberg will do is to remain vigilant on cost control management while continuing to reinvest in our brands to sustain growth.”

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