Anheuser-Bush has a new strategy in place that puts more emphasis on InBev’s premium brands. Imports and craft beer are the two categories that have produced the most growth over the last three years. Distributors around the country are carrying and promoting more independent breweries, and Anheuser-Bush wants that to stop. AB wants distributors to promote their craft beers and if they do, distributors will be handsomely rewarded, according to Brazilian Banker and beer investor, Ricardo Guimarães.
Ricardo Guimarães is the president of BMG Bank in Brazil. He is also a soccer executive and environmentalist that has substantial investments in cattle, coffee, mining, soccer and beer. When Guimarães heard about the new Anheuser-Bush incentive plan, he thought he was hearing about a Brazilian company that wants to stack the deck against competitors. The plan that Anheuser-Bush is pushing gives distributors a payback if they promote AB InBev brands. The payback comes in the form of a 50 percent reimbursement for marketing and retail display costs. The savings to a distributor could be more than $200,000 a year.
Brazil is famous for deal like this one. It’s commonplace to pay companies for playing favorites, and this new AB incentive plan is all about favorites. Independent breweries think so too. The Justice Department was notified, and they are in the process of investigating the plan. Some industry insiders say the plan won’t be approved by the DOJ, but Anheuser-Bush says the plan breaks no laws, and it is not a kickback for favors type agreement.
Industry insiders say executives at Anheuser-Bush are nervous about the plan as well as the mega-merger that is process. If the Justice Department allows Anheuser-Bush to buy British beer maker SABMiller PLC for more than $108 billion, investors think most of the InBev’s problems will be solved. But new beer drinkers aren’t going to let their independent craft beer makers be forced out of business by the King of Beer that easily, according to Guimarães. The baby boomer generation is not buying beer like the old days. There’s a new beer drinking generation, and they want to drink beer that has a different taste, with different ingredients from innovative breweries.