The breweries in Vietnam – Focus on San Miguel with a wee glimpse at Kirin

August 2012 – This “Focus on San Miguel” is the fifth in our series of articles looking at the major brewing groups in Vietnam.  You can find the others here

According to Wiki: “Established in 1890 as a brewery, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is Southeast Asia’s largest publicly listed food, beverage and packaging company.” (

San Miguel Brewery Inc is its brewing division and entered Vietnam in 1994 as part of a JV.

Again, we have a few dates to cover so let’s look at a chronology.

1994 – Joint venture established between San Miguel (Viet Nam) Ltd and Khanh Hoa Beer Co. as Golden Dragon Brewery Vietnam Ltd. at Nha Trang.
1996 – The company converted to a wholly foreign-owned company under the same name. San Miguel Brewery Inc became the sole shareholder.
1999 – Golden Dragon Brewery Vietnam Ltd. renamed as San Miguel Brewery Viet Nam Ltd
2006 – Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning & Investment granted an increase in the company’s licence to increase production capacity from 200k to 500k hL p.a.

As well as a brewery, San Miguel now has interests in other businesses in Vietnam:

  • Crown cap production plant – San Miguel Phu Tho Packaging, HCMC
  • Glass production plant – San Miguel Yamamura Hai Phong Glass, Hai Phong
  • Beverage production plant (Non-alcohol) – San Miguel Vietnam Company, Bien Hoa City, Dong Nai Province
  • Feedmill – San Miguel Pure Foods (VN) Co., Ltd., formerly TTC (Vietnam) Co., Binh Duong
  • 6x hog farms – San Miguel Pure Foods (VN) Co., Ltd.,
  • Processed meat plant – San Miguel Pure Foods (VN) Co., Ltd.,

San Miguel Brewery – Nha Trang

The brewery produces San Miguel Pale Pilsen, San Miguel Light, Blue Ice (export only) and Bia Hoi.

San Miguel beers in Vietnam

Maximum claimed capacity for this brewery now stands at 500k hL after investments to upgrade from 200k hL in the last five years.

However, according to the Vietnam Beverage Association Market Report 2008, actual annual tax-paid production had been flat at approximately 112,000 hL since 2004 which leads us to believe that San Miguel may be using the site to produce primarily for overseas markets.

San Miguel market position in Vietnam:

Like the Carlsberg brand, San Miguel has struggled to penetrate the premium segment. Despite being available in the country since the mid 90’s, San Miguel beer is not considered as an option by many premium drinkers.

It has had some success in its “hometown” market of Nha Trang but consumption regionally is sporadic, mostly dependent on the effectiveness of the beer promotion girls it employs in its contracted venues.


SEA regional beer markets:

San Miguel, is reportedly also looking at spending at least US$300m on three sites in Cambodia, Burma and Laos.

Notably, Ramon S Ang, SMC’s president and COO, said May 2012 that the company was carrying out studies looking at the viability of entering the markets. “Each plant (will require) a minimum investment of $100 million.”


Without looking at a new way to engage its consumers, San Miguel will continue to remain a brand that lacks relevance in the marketplace.

Other than a strategic rethink in its marketing department, the potential game-changer for the San Miguel business in Vietnam is the potential entry of its partner Kirin.

With Kirin owning 48% of San Miguel’s brewing arm, that is a distinct possibility.

To grow beyond a shrinking domestic market, Kirin (like its domestic counterparts) has been aggressively snapping up overseas businesses and has a declared plan to expand its beer sales footprint across the Asia-Pacific region.

Kirin beers are currently available in Vietnam, primarily for the Japanese restaurant market but there has been no effort to push these brands beyond these restaurants.

Nevertheless, Kirin already operates in the Beverage space in Vietnam through Vietnam Kirin Beverage Company Limited, with a production facility located in Binh Duong, outside Saigon. The corporate vision of this business is “To become the leading company in creating new drinking culture in Vietnam”.

Thus, following Kirin’s stated objective to target Asia-Pacific in addition to its shareholding in San Miguel and the entry of domestic competitor Sapporo (for which see our “Focus on Sapporo” in a few weeks), Kirin may review its approach to the Vietnam beer market.

In an interview December 2011, CEO, Senji Miyake said Kirin will “consider corporate tie-ups and small-scale mergers and acquisitions in Southeast Asia.”

Watch this space indeed!

Our article “Focus on SABMiller” will be published w/c 10th September, so please come back for that.

Please also feel free to contact us for more information.

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