MUMBAI, India (AP) - Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer, introduced an Indian-brewed Budweiser on Friday as part of the company's plan to tap into the country's booming economy, a top official said.
While India is one of the world's largest markets for spirits, it ranks near the bottom among beer-guzzling nations.
Anheuser-Busch, however, sees great potential in the country.
''India has strong and consistent economic growth,'' said Stephen J. Burrows, chief executive officer of Anheuser-Busch Asia-Pacific operations. ''It represents a major entry point for Anheuser-Busch.''
Budweiser will initially be on sale only in southern and western India. The company does not sell imported Budweiser in the country.
''The first step is to get the beer established, then we will look at expansion,'' said Burrows.
India's beer industry posted a blistering 20 percent growth per annum over the past two years, up from 10 percent per year over the past decade. The growth has been fueled by India's growing middle class and its huge population of young people. Roughly 60 percent of the nation's 1.2 billion are people under the age of 30.
''The emerging strong middle class has historically been good for the beer industry,'' said Burrows.
The St. Louis-based beer maker announced a joint venture in February with Crown Beers India Ltd. to brew, market and distribute Budweiser and other brands in India and set up a new brewery in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.
With a flat U.S. beer market, Anheuser-Busch has sought overseas growth. It began brewing in China in 1995 and that country's beer market pushed ahead of the U.S. in 2002 as the world's biggest.
Anheuser-Busch has a 27-percent share in the China brewer Tsingtao Brewery Co., China's biggest brewer, and a 50 percent ownership in Grupo Modelo, Mexico's leading beer-maker.
The company faces tough competition in India with United Breweries Ltd., the world's second-largest alcohol manufacturer, which has about 45 percent of the beer market share, followed by London-headquartered SABMiller with some 36 percent.
The Crown Group operates businesses in India's agriculture industry through seed production and export businesses. The group also deals with industrial exports and real estate.