By Simon Bond

Since it's been a bit warm over the past few weeks, I thought I better take a look at Australia's general beer consumption habits, and that of our neighbours.

I really did it to figure out where the best growth market in the world for beer is, since we are all getting hotter under the collar these days. Surprisingly to some (but not others) it seems Vietnam is the best market for beer growth. This explains why the larger beverage and beer companies are making a beeline for Vietnam considering the Government's upcoming selldown of their ownership in this sector. Hardly surprising that studies show Australia is the best beer market, but also the most expensive to shout a round.

Southeast Asia (SEA), with its high economic growth and low alcohol consumption compared to the developed world, coupled with a young population and emerging middle class, is a promising market for beer producers. International giants such as Heineken, Carlsberg, and Kirin are aggressively expanding in SEA by acquiring dominant domestic brands and each other, as Heineken bought the remaining stake in its subsidiary - Asia Pacific Breweries - from Fraser and Neave (F&N) in 2012. At the same time, prominent local players are also making deals: Thailand’s Boon Rawd is in a joint venture with Carlsberg, while Thai Beverage acquired F&N in 2013.

Vietnam is the largest market with the highest consumption level per capita as well as annual growth. Thailand, on the other hand, is the only country examined with negative annual growth rates in alcohol consumption at -2.4%. Thailand’s negative growth is mainly attributed to the political crisis that took place at the end of 2013 and efforts to reduce alcohol consumption by the government. The Philippines appears to be static, while Malaysia and Indonesia, both containing a large Muslim population, understandably have relatively low annual consumptions of beer per capita. Interestingly, however, both their annual growth rates in beer consumption are comparatively high. This reflects the increase in consumption by the non-Muslim population of both countries, as well the effectiveness of the beer companies’ aggressive advertising campaigns.

Myanmar's beer consumption in 2014 reached 210,000 kiloliters. Per-capita volume was a mere tenth or so that in Southeast Asian neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. But with its economy growing rapidly, beer drinking is on the rise, mainly in cities. The market is expected to more than double from 2013 levels by 2018.

But, Vietnam still looks to be the standout investment opportunity due to their favourable demographic profile.