OB strengthens lead over Hite-Jinro
A war between the two dominant brewers here is about to get uglier ahead of the peak summer season when Koreans consume large quantities of beer.
Over the past few months, Oriental Brewery (OB) has overtaken archrival Hite-Jinro, which had ruled the highly-competitive local market for 15 years.
Industry watchers say it is too early to predict who will emerge as the winner, stressing anyone that introduces more innovative products and effective marketing campaigns will get the upper hand.
The Korea Alcohol Liquor Industry Association said Thursday that OB shipped 13.3 million boxes of beer in February, capturing 53.5 percent of the domestic market. One box contains 20 bottles of beer. Hite-Jinro accounted for the remaining 46.5 percent by selling 11.56 million boxes.
OB topped Hite-Jinro in October last year for the first time in 15 years as its market share shot up on the back of the growing popularity of new models of its flagship Cass brand.
Its share rose to 50.2 percent last October from 49.3 two months earlier, while that of Hite-Jinro fell to 49.8 percent from 50.7 over the two-month period. Since then, OB has been expanding its lead over Hite-Jinro.
``We are glad that we have finally edged out our rival which dominated Korea’s beer market for more than 15 years,’’ OB spokeswoman Heather Lee said.
OB has been enjoying a recent surge in demand for Cass Light, Cass Red as well as Golden Larger, which it claims contains 100 percent German hops and golden malt.
``But this is not because we did a better job than our competitor. We think it is largely because Hite-Jinro has been grappling with internal matters following a merger between Hite and Jinro. So, it has not able to effectively promote and market its products,’’ she said.
Hite acquired Jinro, the country’s largest soju maker, in September.
Lee then said the real war between the two brewers is about to begin ahead of the peak season. ``We think the real competition has just begun. If we can outdo Hite-Jinro in summer, we will be able to hold onto our lead for a while. But if not, we will face a difficult time.’’
Among other areas, OB plans to target baseball fans by boosting its sales networks at stadiums across the country. ``As usual, we will introduce an aggressive marketing campaign for summer vacationers. At the same time, we will capitalize on the surging popularity of baseball and sell more beer to fans,’’ the spokeswoman said.
Hite-Jinro said the race is not over, stressing that it will double efforts to reclaim its lost crown in the near future.
``We admit that since the merger between Hite and Jinro in September last year, we have not been able to promote nor market our products as effectively as we had hoped,’’ said Choi Yong-woon, a spokesman for the brewer.
Choi said the company will soon wrap up the integrating process and wage a marketing war against OB. ``Ahead of the peak summer season, we have hired figure skater Kim Yu-na as a Hite model. We will also make more efforts to promote Max draft beer and have it served at more bars.’’