The group's Chinese associate, CR Snow, grew at double the market rate during the calendar year 2009, strengthening its leadership and gaining share in key regions of the country. In a market relatively unaffected by the recession, it increased its earnings and return on investment and continues to invest to benefit from China's economic growth.
Responding to consumer demand, CR Snow bought three more breweries and built a further four as part of a 20 million hectolitre increase in capacity during the year. These expansions have reinforced an already strong presence in Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Zhejiang and taken the business into the important new territory of Shanghai. At the same time, the company has been reaping the cost synergies of previous acquisitions and gaining economies of scale in procurement, operations and routes to market.
CR Snow's share of the Chinese market is estimated to exceed 20%. Within that, the Snow brand (one of the biggest beer brands in the world and larger than China's second and third brands combined) is approaching 90% of the portfolio. The company's channel management skills make the brand highly visible and available and its growing fame enables geographic expansion. The past year has seen further efforts to strengthen its brand equity, particularly behind Snow Draft and Brave the World variants in the fast-growing premium segment.
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