U.S. beer drinkers could toast Anheuser takeover
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Beer drinkers could reap some unexpected short-term benefits as Anheuser-Busch’s “King of Beers” becomes a vassal in a much larger empire run by Belgium’s InBev.
Once InBev’s $52 billion takeover of Anheuser gets approved, it will be able to use Anheuser’s far-reaching U.S. distribution network to sell its own beers, introducing brews such as Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe and Staropramen to drinkers across the United States.
“That could be one of the secret upsides” to this deal, said Harry Schuhmacher, editor and publisher of Beer Business Daily. “You can get a Stella anywhere in New York, but you can’t get one anywhere in San Antonio.”
Anheuser’s Budweiser and Bud Light are the world’s top-selling beers, but are not growing much in the United States as many consumers have switched from domestic beers to wine, spirits, imported beers or small-batch “craft” beers.
Anheuser and InBev had a deal whereby Anheuser distributed some of InBev’s higher-priced beers, but did not make much money off the deal, Schuhmacher said. Now that all the beers would be under the one roof, there is more financial incentive to get those imports into bars and stores, he said.
“This takeover gives the average consumer more choices,” said Benjamin Akande, dean of Webster University’s School of Business and Technology, based in a suburb of St. Louis. “It also possibly introduces some efficiencies in terms of pricing. Overall, I think the average beer drinker will get more choices at more affordable prices.”
Those choices come at the expense of some wounded pride.
“It saddens me that a large, truly American company has become just a fraction of a larger, homogenized global corporation,” said Michael Coakley, a Bud Light drinker from Hoboken, New Jersey. “However I doubt that quality or pricing … will change much at all.”
While people mourn the lost independence of an American icon, the combined company – which will be the world’s largest brewer – may help them drown their sorrows.
“The first effect (on consumers) will come from InBev’s proclivity to sell on price. They are street fighters,” said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark, a beverage industry consulting firm. “To offset the lingering negativity of the AB deal, they are going to give away some suds.”
Yet not everyone is bothered by the transaction.
“They’re not changing the formula. Nothing’s going to change,” said Richard Freed, a regular drinker at Jimmy’s Corner, a bar in midtown-Manhattan. “The average guy doesn’t even know it was taken over.”