One glance at the consumption figures for beer drinking around the world and it's easy to see why Asia and Africa are the glittering prizes for global brewers like Heineken.
The average Asian knocks back 17 liters of beer a year, yet the global average per capita is close to 30 liters and the Czechs lead the way with a whopping 135 liters.
At the other end of the spectrum, Africans drink only eight liters or so a year.
Industry experts say the brightest prospects for the beer sector in the next few years will come from Asia and Africa - hence the rapid reaction from Heineken last week when it saw its position in Asia Pacific Breweries threatened by the arrival of Thai Beverage.
The stakes for brewers are high. Consumer market research group Canadean forecasts that beer volumes will record a compound annual growth rate of 3.8per cent in Asia and 4.6 per cent in Africa from this year until 2016.
By contrast, annual growth in North America will decline to -0.6 per cent, and -0.5 per cent in Western Europe.
The world beer market witnessed a period of robust growth until the 2009 global financial crisis struck and forced consumers to switch from premium beers to cheaper ones.
"Conditions in the industry have since improved, but the faltering global economic recovery, particularly in developed markets, continues to weigh on growth," said analyst Steven Connell of US market research company IBISWorld.
IBISWorld expects the industry to strengthen next year due to "renewed demand for higher value imported and craft beers in developed nations and strong volume growth and rising beer consumption in developing nations".
Connell said the wave of consolidation in the past five years will aid stronger growth. This began in 2008, when InBev took over Anheuser-Busch to form the world's largest brewer, AB InBev, in a massive US$52billion deal.
In 1998, the top 10 companies accounted for only 34 per cent of the world beer market. By this year, this share had soared to over 60per cent.
The top four beer players account for about half of all industry revenue. These big guns are Belgium's Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois, Britain's SABMiller, whose brands include Grolsch and Pilsen, Holland's Heineken and Denmark's Carlsberg.
Asia has been one of the fastest-growing regions for the beer market in recent years.
Broker Bernstein estimates that Asia-Pacific contributed 60 per cent of incremental global beer volumes in the past 10 years. The region now accounts for just over a third of world beer volumes. This is largely due to a rising population with a more affluent middle-class and soaring incomes.
Much of the growth is dominated by China, Vietnam and India. As Canadean noted: "China continues to be the engine of growth both in Asia and globally... now, one in every four pints of beer worldwide is consumed in China."
It is a more modest picture in other countries in the region.
British-based beer market analyst Plato Logic noted that beer consumption will see a compounded annual growth rate of 3.3per cent in Thailand, -0.4per cent in Japan and 1.7per cent in Singapore from 2010 until 2020.
This could explain why brewers such as Thai Beverage and Japan's Kirin Holdings are diversifying their presence beyond their respective home markets.
Another rapidly expanding market is Africa, where analysts estimate beer volumes rose around 7per cent last year. The continent makes up just over 5per cent of the world beer market.
The tussle for the beer dollar has also been keen, reported Britain's Daily Telegraph recently.
Big brewers such as SABMiller and Heineken are pumping in millions of marketing dollars as they compete for growth in the continent's fast-expanding industry.
Industry veterans such as SABMiller executive chairman Graham Mackay are now referring to Africa as the most important growth story of the next decade.
"If you talk about the immediate runway for growth, I don't think there's anything that beats Africa," he said.
By contrast, most major brewers are recording a slump in Europe due to the debt crisis and weak growth in North America from the slow economic recovery in the United States.