Vietnam: Beer War Unfolds As Country Discusses Alcohol Law
A beer war between Big Alcohol giant Heineken and local industry Sabeco is unfolding in Vietnam currently over the backdrop of new alcohol policy discussions.
Vietnam, Asia’s third-largest beer consumer after China and Japan, has seen beer volumes climb by an average 6.6% for the last six years compared to an increase of “just” 0.2% for consumption globally.
Vietnam massive cash cow for Heineken
Heineken’s Vietnam sales have jumped by double-digit percentages in the past four years. Vietnam is Heineken’s second-largest source of profit after Mexico. Analysts estimate Vietnam accounted for just over 10% of the €3.87 billion ($4.3 billion) Heineken made in operating income before one-off items last year.
With these facts and figures, it is no surprise Heineken has taken an aggressive approach in their push to promote their products. They are aiming to claim the territory currently commanded by Sabeco, a former state-owned brewer now controlled by Thai Beverage Pcl and the largest beer provider of Vietnam.
We aim for the No. 1 position, not only in profit but also in volume,” said, Heineken Vietnam managing director Leo Evers, as per Yahoo.
The Dutch multinational beer giant recently launched a new version of its Heineken lager and is expanding its reach into suburban and rural areas with its mid-tier Tiger brand and lower-priced Larue and Bivina beers.
Public health seems to be just collateral for these corporations waging a beer war at the expense of the Vietnamese people.
Battling to adopt a comprehensive alcohol control policy
While the beer war is ongoing, another struggle is taking place in the Vietnamese National Assembly. This is about adopting the draft law on Alcohol Harm Prevention, which has been in the making since early 2018 by the Ministry of Health.
The draft law will be voted on at the end of the ongoing National Assembly session on June 14. The approval of more than half the deputies is needed for a bill or provision to be passed.
Big Alcohol lobbying waters down WHO-recommended measures
As the beer war unfolds, the alcohol industry appears to be successful in watering down the evidence-based provisions of the draft alcohol law, that is currently discussed in the National Assembly. Several key measures have been attacked and appear to be removed. Parliamentary deliberations appear to result in significant weakening of measures proven to protect public health:
- Proposed time frame for advertising liquor on television and radio. This would ban advertisements of alcoholic drinks from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and right before, during and right after programs for children – Accepted
- Provision to ban the sale of all alcohol drinks from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day – Rejected
- Provision to ban those found with alcohol content in their blood from driving on the streets – Rejected
- Removal of provision to ban online alcohol sale.
This is a significant weakening of the original draft which consisted a high-impact, evidence-based alcohol policy solutions curtailing availability, affordability and promoting health and well-being of people. However, with consumption rising rapidly Vietnam needs impactful alcohol control policy urgently, to curb the inevitable rise of alcohol harm.
The alcohol industry, especially Heineken and other multinational alcohol giants have been aggressively lobbying against the draft alcohol law, that contained many of the WHO-recommended alcohol policy best buys.
The beer war clearly shows what is at stake for them and why the alcohol law is such a threat.