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Fruity beers enjoy surge in popularity as light drinking catches on

From left: FiLite Radler, Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc and Hoegaarden Rosee (HiteJinro and OB)
From left: FiLite Radler, Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc and Hoegaarden Rosee (HiteJinro and OB)
Beers with a fruity taste are gaining ground in South Korea’s alcoholic beverages market, which has been dominated by domestic pale lagers such as Cass and Hite, as more people opt for light drinking with variations in taste, according to the industry.

Convenience store chain CU said its sales of beers known for fruity notes, including Kronenbourg 1664, between January and August rose 9 percent compared with the same time last year. General beer sales also went up by 14.2 percent over the same period.

Against this backdrop, HiteJinro is set to release the new lemon-flavored FiLite Radler early next month. Labeled by the liquor maker as “Happoshu,” also known as low-malt beer, it is set to begin production this week.

In June, Oriental Brewery released Hoegaarden Green Grape -- a grape-inspired beer with 3.5 percent alcohol by volume, which is lower than the original white ale, which has 4.9 percent.

There has been a generational shift in drinking culture too.

“The fruit soju boom a few years ago was partly in response to the growing appetite for low-alcohol drinks as women and young people in general wanted something to drink more lightly and with ease. That led to a growing preference for drinks with less alcohol smell,” one official at HiteJinro explained.

“In the past, people used to stick to one drink together whether it’s beer or ‘somaek’ (beer mixed with soju). But millennials and Generation Z tend to enjoy a wider range of drinks. They order a different beer each while drinking in groups, for instance. And the new products are responding to those needs,” the official added.

Kronenbourg 1664, a pale golden lager with a citrus fragrance that is originally from France, is one of the biggest winners to come out of the trend. The brand is distributed by HiteJinro.

Having sold over 200 million cans in Korea between 2013 and 2019, it helped France become the fifth-most-popular place of origin for beers sold at convenience store CU last year.

While drinking options in the country have expanded in recent years as the market grew, the pandemic this year has drastically changed the way people drink as tougher social distancing rules were introduced, one official at OB explained.

“Due to the impact of COVID-19, dining out and hoesiks (work meals) have become harder to do, driving more people towards drinking at home or drinking alone. And that led to an increase in sales at convenience stores and supermarkets,” the official said.

The new trend was also identified in a recent report published Sunday by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp., which saw drinking at home nearly double in popularity in the wake of COVID-19.

It also said beer was the most popular alcoholic drink in 2019 and demand grew for low-alcohol and smooth alcoholic drinks at supermarkets.

By Yim Hyun-su( hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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