CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (8/9/2019 Fri.)


Podcast: Story in the Story (8/9/2019 Fri.)

People's Daily app

01:37, August 09, 2019



From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story. 

In China, the world's largest beer market, craft beer consumption is on the rise as consumers have turned their attention to premium, fresher products. 

According to Dianping, a food delivery and business directory app, there are more than 280 craft beer establishments in Shanghai.

The majority of Chinese drinkers still consume local commercial brews such as Snow and Tsingtao. Snow, which is produced by China Resources Breweries, was ranked the best-selling beer in the world in 2017.

However, the potential of the craft beer segment can be seen in the fact that while overall beer consumption has been decreasing, craft beer consumption has been on the rise.

The main drivers behind this growth are the increasing amount of disposable income the middle classes have and a growing sense of adventure among millennials when it comes to beer.

Today’s Story in the Story looks at beer consumption in Shanghai and how a rising middle class is paving the way for diverse beer tastes.


A beer production line in Yancheng, East China's Jiangsu Province (Photo: VCG)

Zhang Yindi, better known as "pi jiu ayi" or "beer auntie,” is all the evidence one needs to prove that the craft beer scene in Shanghai is booming.

Since setting up a small craft beer supermarket called Beer Lady in 2011, Zhang has gone on to open another four outlets across the city. The second, third, and fifth outlets aren't different from the first-they are essentially no-frills supermarkets that, apart from craft beer, sell a smattering of light bites like sausages, pizzas, and potato chips.

Her fourth store, however, would leave most of her ardent fans floored, because this iteration clearly shows that Beer Lady is no longer just a supermarket.

The entire project might appear to some as overly ambitious. Given the store's location in Baoshan, a suburb in northern Shanghai that is an hour away from the city center by subway, it seems unrealistic to rent such a massive space.

"When I first started selling craft beer, I didn't have ambitions to expand it on such a scale. I just followed my gut instinct," she quipped.

Although Zhang has liked drinking alcoholic beverages since she was young, her love affair with craft beer only started around 2008 when she had her first sip of it. About two years later, when her grocery store business was affected by the rise of e-commerce, Zhang started toying with the idea of selling this beverage to boost sales.


Zhang Yindi has become an ambassador for Shanghai's craft beer scene. (Photo: China Daily)

And then one day a Belgian craft beer distributor approached Zhang and asked if she was interested in carrying his products.

"I told him to send me a crate of every type of beer he had. You should've seen how shocked he was," she explained.

"When he asked what I would do if I didn't manage to finish selling these beers, I told him that I'd just drink all the leftovers. It was that simple. I didn't really give it much thought!" she said.

Zhang's stock of Belgian beers sold out within a day, bought up by hordes of thirsty foreign students from nearby universities. That was when she knew she had struck gold. Within months, Zhang revamped her grocery store into a supermarket that primarily sold craft beers.

The turning point in the business came in 2015 when the local lifestyle portal Smart Shanghai paid a visit to Beer Lady. Zhang said that business skyrocketed after the article was published.

Before long, Zhang was transformed from a humble grocery shop owner into a prolific businesswoman. She has become somewhat of an ambassador, having met with the officials from the British and Belgium consulates through beer-related events.

Located in Songjiang district, the sixth outlet will occupy 4,000 square meters of space that will include a guesthouse, a beer museum and a special section dedicated to champagnes and wines from around the world.

"I've always loved drinking alcohol. This is why I've managed to turn this into such a successful business. If you want to do something big, you definitely need to know your product and love it," she said, while also explaining how sometimes she feels the beer talks to her, and offers her guidance on how to run her business.

"I guess you can say that craft beer is like my lover, my soul," she said.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Paris Yelu Xu. Music by: Text from Global Times and China Daily.)

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