© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Corona beer is seen for sale at a supermarket in East Grinstead as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, East Grinstead, Britain, April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Adam Oliver

BEIJING (Reuters) – Budweiser Brewing Co APAC will step up promotion of premium beer brands including Hoegaarden and Corona and expand non-beer offerings, betting a rising middle class will boost demand for higher-end products, its chief executive said on Thursday.

The Hong Kong-listed Asia arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev reported a 63.7% rise in first-quarter revenue, with total volume up 64.6%, driven by strong consumption over the Lunar New Year holiday and a low base for comparison due to the COVID-19 outbreak early last year.

Budweiser APAC shares surged more than 8% on Thursday after posting its results.

Revenue doubled in China from the same period last year and grew by double digits compared to the first quarter of 2019. Revenue generated from premium brands increased by high double digits year on year, it said.

“Premium and super premium beers continue to be our growth engine,” Jan Craps, co-chair and chief executive of Budweiser APAC, said in an interview.

China’s growing middle class and the proliferation and needs of different drinking occasions was driving the company to broaden its product portfolio, he said.

“We know that as a country and as more people get into the middle class and higher class in terms of disposable income, the drinking occasions, differences and the needs are getting more complex, so we need to offer a broader portfolio to fulfil what the consumer is looking for,” he said.

Last year, the company launched Mike’s Hard Lemonade, a vodka-based sparkling beverage, in China, and tested Budweiser ME3, a fruity version of its flagship beer.

In China, eateries and bars have been re-opened since the second quarter of 2020, with post-pandemic consumer traffic recovering strongly.

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