The "King of Beers" has a new throne
Credit: Photo by Jiangang Wang via Getty Images

For years, Americans have been warned that China was coming for us. “The Sleeping Giant” will awaken and “beat” the United States. Whatever that exactly means is up to individual interpretation, but here’s one surprisingly example where the prediction has become true: China now drinks more of America’s most iconic beer brand than America does!

According to new data from Rabobank, for the first time ever, more Budweiser beer is being drunk in China than in U.S. – meaning China also drinks more Bud than any other county in the world. The transformation is stark. Starting in 2000, American consumption of Budweiser was over 4 billion liters whereas Chinese consumption was comparatively negligible. But as U.S. consumption of Bud has steadily declined since 2005, Chinese consumption has grown, topping 1 billion liters in 2013 and currently inching above U.S. consumption for the first half of 2018 which is now estimated to be under 2 billion liters for the year.

Though clearly part of the story here is Budweiser’s declining sales in the U.S., the “King of Beers” is still the country’s fourth best-selling brand, so it’s not like Americans have given up on Bud entirely. Instead, Rabobank offers up a global phenomenon as an explanation: Sales of mass market domestic brands are declining while sales of craft and import brands are growing. That’s true in China as well, but on that side of the globe, Budweiser is regarded as a desirable import.

Analysists imply that this is actually partly Budweiser’s own doing. “The largest ten brewers in the world saw their market share double, from one-third to two-thirds over the past 20 years,” the report states. “As brewers gained an on-the-ground presence overseas, trading up consumers from low-margin local brands to high-margin international brands became part of their strategy.”

Of course, population likely plays a big role in all of this as well. China’s current population is around 1.38 billion people – more than four times greater than that of America with its paltry (cough) 325 million people. America still drinks far more Budweiser per capita. Still, setting aside any connotation of China “beating” us when it comes to drinking Budweiser, this change at the very least speaks towards a continued globalization that we haven’t seen before.

But as funny side note to this report, many “imported” beers aren’t actually imported at all; they’re brewed in the same country they’re sold in. A classic example of this is Foster’s – which is practically non-existent in Australia and is produced for the American market right here in the States. The same goes for Budweiser: The Bud sold in China is actually made in China. Wouldn’t it be the most unthinkable irony if one day, decades down the road, Budweiser was almost impossible to find in the U.S. but continued an amazing run in China?