Apr 4, 2012

Anheuser-Busch playing hardball

Just a "few" of the beers AB has to offer

It’s been a rough couple of years for beer giant AB InBev (formally known as Anheuser-Busch) for the past 3 years, they have seen their market share drop in the US. Now, before you feel bad for the makers of Bud, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Land Shark, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe, well, you get the idea, they still control about 50% of the market here in the US (48.3% as in 2011, according it AB's own website). Craft beer, by comparison, makes up about 5.8% (per Brewers Association). While AB see's its market share declining year by year, craft beer has seen a steady increase for years now. Again, up to 5% of all beer sold in America!! That’s a huge step, not long ago; it was hovering around 1%.

There, now it's cold enough!

This trend is not good news for AB. While still very much the "King" of beers, their hold on the market is starting to show signs of slipping. So AB needs to do something. You would expect someone in their position to start seeking new markets, new products, maybe redesign their old products. Which, to their credit, they are doing. With products being released like the 6% ABV Bud Light Platinum and the much anticipated (wait for it...) Bud Light Lime-a-rita! (I'm serious; this is their attempt to get back "beer drinkers", really?) However, these products are smarter than Molson Coors attempt to regain market share, by slapping stupid marketing gimmick’s on their products, like temperature sensing stickers (when the mountains are cold, that means you can't taste how shitty it is, and you are good to start drinking.....) and "vortex bottles" and other stupid crap....

However, AB is going one step further, they are playing hard ball! How do you ask? They are attempting to "persuade" distributors to stop selling so many other brands. Now, when you control half of all the beer sales, when you talk, people listen. They aren't saying what they will do if the 500 distributors don't play along, all they will say is they will "act against them". Now regardless of how you stand on principle, as a business person, if the person that controls half your business threatens you, you need to take it seriously. I actually called two of our local distributors here in Arizona, Hensley and Gold Crown. From both, I got a "we can't comment on that right now" answer, which is what I was expecting. I imagine, at least here in Arizona, and in a lot of states, there are competition laws that would prevent them from doing anything too drastic, let’s hope, but this can't be good, at least not in the short term. This is a tough guy on the beach, kick sand in the face of the skinny (but popular) kids face as he is trying to pick up chicks.

Buy Local!
Hopefully (and possibly) I can see this back firing. Recently, here in the States, there is growing impatience with "Corp America" and a growing interest in small business and local business. I don't see AB going anywhere anytime soon, but I can't imagine that such stiff arm, hard ball tactics but one of the larger corporations in the States is going to have a positive effect. If anything, it may just have the exact opposite effect, and let’s hope.

Now, I'm not a fan of boycotts, I think they end up hurting more people, and the people you don't want to hurt, i.e. the hard working fine folks that work for these companies. But please, think twice when you go to purchase your beer. I GARUNTEE you, there is at least as good a beer out there, brewed by hard working, local folks. It may cost a little more, and I know, in this economy, is a big deal, but we can't let this sort of behavior go unpunished. Less compotation means less choice, and who wants that. Do, buy local, or at least smaller when choosing your beer for the weekend!

1 comment:

  1. You've inspired me to support the little guy...I'll pick up some Blue Moon this weekend! (j/k).

    I primarily drink homebrew...so I'm supporting the littlest brewer there is!