The word and a few others could be applied to some statements about the global beer market.
Beer sales are certainly growing faster in Asia than anywhere else in the world. They are possibly going to see their decline in Russia flatten after three years and prospects are definitely poor in Britain, where volumes have fallen for eight years and the Government is proposing a 45p per unit minimum alcohol price.
“Western Europe is a challenging environment” admits Carlsberg chief executive Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen.
“But in Asia, where we have a lot of growth in a lot of our markets, it’s really very little about efficiency. It’s about growing faster than the market by being innovative and building our capabilities.”
Indeed, Carlsberg has 46 breweries and a market share of up to 55pc in parts of Western China , which it is targeting as it plays catch-up with the more developed eastern seaboard. Elsewhere, the company’s market share in India is approaching 10pc and close to 25pc in some pockets, such as parts of Delhi. It is also enjoying growing markets in Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
“China is clearly the big one in terms of potential growth,” says Buhl Rasmussen. “Probably 50pc-60pc of the total world volume growth in beer over the next five years will be in Asia and a big part of that will be China.
“I believe we can be one of the strongest brewers in Asia in the long-term, if not the strongest. A sign of the potential is that the average beer consumption in China is 37 litres per head.
“In cities like Beijing and Shanghai it’s not far from 100 litres but, if you go West, it’s more like 17pc-18pc [of that] and one has to assume that the cities in the western and central areas will get closer to the cities on the eastern side.”
In Russia and Eastern Europe, which represent 40pc of Carlsberg’s total beer sales and 45pc of its profits, there’s a very different story, with a 10pc volume slump in Russia in 2009 followed by a 5pc fall in 2010 due to a 200pc tax increase. There was another 4pc drop last year due to the barley crop being savaged by a heatwave.
“It’s been challenging in Russia and we’re the biggest player,” says Buhl Rasmussen. “But we’re now seeing Russia coming back to normal. This year we expect the category in Russia to be flat. I’m fairly optimistic.”
In Western Europe, although Carlsberg expects more drops in market volumes, it is taking market share and becoming more efficient, following a cost-cutting drive that included the closure of its Tetley brewery in Leeds in 2010.
“The first nine months of 2012 were our most successful for many years in terms of market share growth,” says Buhl Rasmussen. “We took about half a percentage point. That’s a lot in this market.”
The problem remains Britain, where the single-digit percentage beer margins are in the bottom quartile of those that Carlsberg enjoys in Western Europe, where the average is 13pc-15pc and the target 15pc-17pc by 2015.
In addition, the Government is consulting on introducing minimum pricing for alcohol in a bid to tackle Britain’s binge-drinking culture.
Buhl Rasmussen is robustly against the idea, which follows a proposal for a 50p-per-unit alcohol pricing floor in Scotland that’s now being tested in the European courts.
“They’re the only two in Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) where we see this happening,” he says. “We’re a little surprised about the UK proposal because the proposal in Scotland has been taken to court in the European Union as to whether it would be in line with the free market principles.
“It could take between six and 18 months before there’s a decision so we didn’t really expect England to come out with a proposal at this time.
“But we were also surprised because we have so much evidence across Europe that price does not change or reduce abuse. What changes and reduces abuse would be education and information.
“A minimum alcohol price may stop you, me and some other people buying so much but you and me and the other people who don’t abuse alcohol are not the issue.
“The issue is people abusing alcohol and they don’t stop buying because you have a minimum price of 45p or 50p.”
Buhl Rasmussen is hopeful of a ruling in the Scottish case that would make it difficult for the British Government to proceed.
“I don’t think that, in general, the abuse problem in the UK is much bigger than in some other countries,” he says.
“One or two units do not do any harm if you drink responsibly and sometimes having a few more if it’s only once in a while also shouldn’t be a problem because sometimes I think we should all be allowed to have a bit of fun.”
Carlsberg has a 16pc market share in Britain, ranking it fourth behind Heineken, Carling brewer Molson Coors and Budweiser-maker Anheuser-Busch InBev.
“The UK is not as profitable as many other markets,” says Buhl Rasmussen.
“It has one of the higher beer taxes in all the European countries so it’s not like prices are very low in the UK.
“The market has been in decline and that’s the other thing we cannot really understand.
“This proposal is hitting a category where the market has been in decline in terms of volume every year since 2004.
“We’ve taken cost out and we had to. The UK, going five, six, seven years back was very, very low single-digit margin.
That’s the key strategy to be successful now in Europe. If you cannot make your business model more efficient, it’s really hard to be successful and grow your bottom line.”