* Snow becomes world's top selling beer brand
* Snow sales volumes jump 19.1 percent in 2008
LONDON, March 31 Chinese beer Snow leapt ahead of Bud Light to become the world's biggest selling beer as China stretches its lead as the largest beer market in the world, according to provisional data from researcher Plato Logic.
Snow, which is brewed by SABMiller (SAB.L) and its Chinese partner China Resources Enterprises Ltd (0291.HK), saw its 2008 sales volumes jump 19.1 percent to 61 million hectolitres putting it well ahead of Bud Light and sister brew Budweiser.
Belgium-based InBev based in Belgium and brewer of Stella Artois and Beck's, took over Bud Light and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion in November 2008 to create the world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev INTB.BR.
Plato lists the top six beer brands as the Snow range of beers followed by the Bud Light range, including Dry and Ice, at 55.6 million hectolitres, Budweiser at 43.4 million followed by AB-InBev's Brazilian beer Skol, Modelo's GMODELOC.MX Mexican beer Corona and the Heineken brand (HEIN.AS).
The Snow brand has grown rapidly as China overtook the United States earlier this decade to become the biggest beer market in the world in terms of volume and is now over 50 percent larger. In 2007, Plato put Snow second to Bud Light and ahead of Budweiser.
The Snow range of brands accounts for 84 percent of sales at the China Resources-SABMiller joint venture in 2008, the Chinese group reported in its 2008 results earlier on Tuesday.
However, AB-InBev argued that Bud Light was the world's best selling beer as a single trademark brand as Snow represents a family of beer brand that include at least 25 extensions.
It added that the Budweiser family of brands which include Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Select, Bud Light Lime and others remain the best-selling family of beers in the world.
"By itself, Bud Light remains the largest single brand in the world," AB-InBev said in a statement sent to Reuters.
In 2008, AB-InBev said its own beer brands saw sales volumes fall 0.3 percent, while its focus brands which include Stella Artois, Beck's, Budweiser and Bud Light rose some 2.6 percent, but it did not give individual brand performances.
World's leading beer brands in million hectolitres, 2008 provisional figures from Plato Logic
1. Snow (range) 61.0
2. Bud Light (range) 55.6
3. Budweiser 43.4
4. Skol (Brazil) 35.4
5. Corona 32.7
6. Heineken 29.1
(Reporting by David Jones; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
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