Beer Brand Review

What are the world’s biggest beer brands?

Late last year, GlobalData pulled together its beer category deep-dive for 2020. Here, Just Drinks considers the world's largest beer brands in volumes terms.


ach of the world's ten largest beer brands falls into one of two camps: Multi-market international brands or single-market operators. Perennial category leader Snow, which is owned by China Resources Beer, falls - as the brand owner's name suggests - into the latter group. Indeed, according to GlobalData, China accounted for 100.26m of the brand's 100.3m-hectolitre sales in 2020. 

Snow is comfortably on top, both globally and in China: Second-placed Budweiser had annual volumes around half that of Snow's. Back home, the brand more than doubled Tsingtao's volumes (another single market brand that made the global top ten). 

In third place, Corona Extra sits between two stools: In the US, the beer is owned by Constellation Brands but by Anheuser-Busch InBev in all other markets. Corona makes the 'international brands' cut, but the volumes for the Mexico-originated beer are accounted for almost completely by just two markets - it's home one and the US. Indeed, the pair held over 80% of 2020 sales. 

Rounding out the top five are Heineken, which has China - through 2019's joint venture with Snow-linked China Resources Enterprises - and Africa - thanks to the majority stake purchase in Distell, confirmed two months ago - in its sights, and A-B's Bud Light. The light cousin of Budweiser has a similar international presence to Corona with the added support of Canada. 

With the exception of Coors - yet another US-reliant beer - the rest of the top ten comprises single-market brands, sliced up between China (Tsingtao and Harbin) and Brazil (Skol and Brahma - both of which are owned by A-B InBev-controlled AmBev). 

Beer's reliance on the on-premise channel in all markets resulted in a torrid 2020 across the board. The year started with pandemic-driven lockdowns and subsequent pub and bar closures in China, spreading globally as the year progressed. 

Much as the 12-month period could be viewed, therefore, as an anomaly - a position underlined by the year-on-year volume declines recorded by GlobalData - some longer-term directions of travel were merely accelerated by COVID. Volumes slides for Snow, Tsingtao and Harbin came against a premiumising beer market background in China. While A-B InBev has looked to ride this premiumisation trend with Budweiser, the brand's heavy presence in the US hampered its performance in 2020. 

Heineken's volumes drop was the smallest of the top four and serves as a preface for the beer's future: The brand made the volumes top tens in all of GlobalData's 'by region' charts with just the one exception, hence the Asia tie-up with CRE that kicked off three years ago. 

Bud Light's flatter showing in 2020 - its best performance over the previous four years - can be credited in part to the brand's NPD activity, driven by the flavoured Rita portfolio extensions. 

Brahma and Skol, meanwhile, suggest big things in Brazil in the years ahead. Be wary, however, that A-B InBev rules the mainstream segment in the country, so best think of another way to get into the premium beer arena.

Main image: Los Angeles Popular beer brands isolated on white background
Credit: Chones / Shutterstock