Could beer help brew up more China-Croatia trade?

WATCH: Beer and opera boosting China-Croatia ties


Miroslav Šuvak makes beer in Croatia. Not just any beer – his brew has its own unique taste and texture. 

Šuvak started Nova Runda Craft Brewery in 2013. It soon made an impact, earning a solid reputation across the European Union. Business was good, but after a while, Šuvak started looking for other opportunities. He wanted to tap into the Chinese market – something few Croatian companies had managed to get right. 

“It was a challenge getting our beer into China,” says Šuvak. “You need to take into account that we are still a small company. There are only eight employees.” 

Big opportunity brewing

Nova Runda may be small, but Šuvak’s big idea is paying off – the brewery is now exporting beer to China. The orders aren’t massive, but Nova Runda has developed relationships in the Chinese market. Officials say they’re trying to build more of those relationships as quickly as possible. 

“As diplomats, we try to boost the amount of products that are imported by China,” says Qi Qianjin, China’s ambassador to Croatia. “We are now in negotiations to get Croatian products like tuna and honey to China.”

Miroslav Šuvak (right) founded his craft brewery in 2013. /Nova Runda

Miroslav Šuvak (right) founded his craft brewery in 2013. /Nova Runda

The culture of trade

Croatia’s relationship with China has been a little uneven over the last few years. The countries traded goods worth $2.5 billion in 2023, but Chinese exports accounted for the bulk of that. Croatia does export relatively large amounts of medicine and electrical appliances to China, but total exports came to just $85 million last year. 

Some Croatian companies say it’s difficult to sell goods to Chinese firms. China is hoping that more contact will improve ties, and that means contact at every level. The stars of the Hangzhou Opera performed in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, earlier this month. Director Cui Wei says the performers were keen to share a little piece of Chinese culture. 

“We hope that through the exchange of our traditional culture, we can bring our hearts closer,” says Wei. “We also hope that through such cultural exchanges, the two peoples can understand and integrate with each other.”

Nova Runda Craft Brewery is one of a handful of Croatian companies exporting to China. /Nova Runda

Nova Runda Craft Brewery is one of a handful of Croatian companies exporting to China. /Nova Runda

It may be a little early to toast a boom in China-Croatia trade. But Šuvak’s story suggests more deals could flow Croatia’s way. “We are not an industrial-scale producer of beer,” says Šuvak. “But yes, we still manged to get into the Chinese market.”

More exports to China may leave a very sweet taste in this part of the world – just like Šuvak’s rather special beer. 

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