Today’s infographic is an interesting one, created by NPR. Entitled Two Beer Companies, 210 Brands, it shows all of the beer brands owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller across the globe. Below the map, there’s also a list of brands by country, color-coded by which beer giant owns or controls them. How accurate is it? Hard to say. It doesn’t appear to include line extensions, which would balloon the chart to many times its current size, but glancing at the list for the United states, it looks like it may be missing some, though to be fair I didn’t do a line by line comparison.
Oh, I hate to pick on the mainstream media as they cover the world of beer, but this is too delicious not to point out. In a story about the proposed buyout of Grupo Modelo by Anheuser-Busch InBev, entitled The Great Beer Monopoly Deal May Be Back On, the Atlantic features the following photo, which I downloaded in case somebody gets wise and replaces it. And a hat tip to Tom Dalldorf for sending me the link. I guess one Bud’s as good as another. Can I assume I don’t have to draw a diagram?
Today I saw in the UK Sun that American actor Megan Fox is doing ads for Brahma, the Brazilian Budweiser, an especially accurate association since Brahma is part of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Why do we care? We don’t, but I’m game to look at a couple of ads with Megan Fox in them. Isn’t that why advertisers chose her? Of course, it’s still a tasteless, flavorless beer.
As Mais Gostosas do Carnival (The Hottest Carnival)
Is it just me, or does that beer have his arm around Fox? Is the beer wearing sunglasses because he doesn’t want to be seen with Megan Fox?
Convidando Megan Fox Pra Uma Brahma (Inviting Megan Fox for a Brahma)
And here she is going off to have a picnic. According to the Sun, she’s flying down to Rio to do a commercial and pose for some more ads.
Although humorously enough, a few years ago the hipster appeared more partial to Pabst Blue Ribbon. This was taken by paparazzi in 2009. Ah, sex and beer. What’s not to love. It seems to me, the big brewers follow a variation of the old lawyer’s adage. “When the law is on your side, argue the law. When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When neither the facts nor the law are on your side, make an ad hominem attack.” In the brewer’s world it’s more along these lines. “When the beer tastes good, promote the beer. When the brewery has personality, promote the brewer. When the beer has neither, promote a celebrity, a cartoon, or both.”
24/7 Wall St. had an interesting look at some beers that have fallen on hard times over the last five years. Entitled Nine Beers Americans No Longer Drink, it lists some mainstream beers that have experienced some amazing drops in sales from 2006 through last year. The data is from Beer Marketer’s Insights and the list includes nine beers that have experienced more than a one-third drop in sales — and in two cases two-thirds — over that five-year time period. Here’s the list:
- Michelob: 72% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (ABI)
- Michelob Light: 66.3% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (ABI)
- Budweiser Select: 60.8% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (ABI)
- Milwaukee’s Best: 57.1% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (MillerCoors)
- Old Milwaukee: 52.8% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (Pabst)
- Miller Genuine Draft: 52.3% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (MillerCoors)
- Amstel Light: 47.7% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (Heineken)
- Miller High Life Light: 37.6% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (MillerCoors)
- Milwaukee’s Best Light: 35.5% drop in sales, 2006-2011 (MillerCoors)
That’s a pretty remarkable list. A few of those used to be truly successful brands. The article also details how “to combat the growing popularity of craft brews, major breweries such as Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors have aggressively marketed their own specialty beer.” Those include such stealth beers as Blue Moon, Shock Top, et al. That’s in addition to buying up craft brands such as Goose Island or creating separate marketing arms, like Tenth and Blake.
It will be interesting to see what these companies will do next as these brands drag down the ship with such titanic sinking sales. Will they take steps to reinvigorate these brands or jettison them from their portfolios and instead concentrate on craftier brands?
Maybe it’s Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter or Guinness that’s making Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) come over to the dark side? But whatever the reason, ABI is apparently poised to release at least five, possibly six, new beers which, if not actually black, have significantly more color than your average ABI beer. And apparently they’re also more extreme beers — which for ABI means 6% a.b.v. (it’s all relative). The first of these, Bud Black Crown, is described as a “golden amber lager” so it would appear “Black Crown” is more of a ceremonial title than a beer descriptor. According to one label I saw, there’s apparently a website set up — www.budweiser.com/blackcrown — though so far there’s nothing set up there yet. The Black Crown came from the Budweiser Project 12, specifically the Los Angeles entry. According to AdAge, there will most likely be a big marketing push behind this release, which may include a Super Bowl ad, and — ooh boy — a specially designed bow-tie can. The Black Crown is expected to be launched in early February.
Next up is Michelob Black Lager, a “Special Dark Lager” and advertised as a “German-style Doppelbock.” There’s not much information I could find on this one, so it’s anybody’s guess what this will be like.
Then, from the Busch family comes Busch Black Light. So either they’re going after the old hippies with their black light posters or having a bit of oxymoronic fun like “jumbo shrimp” or “black gold.” This one’s also something of a head-scratcher. It, too, is 6% a.b.v. — high for a light — and also mentions being “ice-brewed.” It couldn’t be a “black light,” like a black IPA, could it? That seems way too far-fetched, doesn’t it? So what is it? I’m stumped.
And let’s not forget the Newark, New Jersey (née Latrobe, Pennsylvania) brand Rolling Rock. They’re coming out with Rolling Rock Black Rock, an “Extra Dark,” which presumably means it’s as “extra dark” as their regular beer is “extra pale ale.”
Lastly, there’s ABI’s German brand, Beck’s, which is brewed here in the states. Beck’s will apparently be launching two brand extensions, presumably hoping to squeeze more shelf space out of Bud-friendly retailers. The first of these is Beck’s Black Jewel. It appears that it was also be 6% a.b.v. — which I’m starting to think is a magic number — and is brewed with Liberty hops, and could possibly be a single-hop beer. No world, however, on the beer’s color.
Lastly, this one’s more of a stretch, darkside-wise. Beck’s Sapphire looks like it will either be a single hop beer or at least feature the German hop Sapphire (a.k.a. Saphir). But it does have a dark green and black label, so who knows? It, too, will be 6% a.b.v. (so that’s four out of six). Also, I always thought sapphires were blue and my understanding is that if impurities like chromium get into the gem, then it’s called “red corundum,” or more commonly a “ruby.” So who knows what the deal is with the red sapphire?
So why is ABI suddenly going over to the dark side with beer color, labels and in their naming strategies? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s not as if dark beers have suddenly started taking off last week. Guinness has been around for a very long time, and most craft breweries have included a porter or stout in their portfolios for decades. Although we don’t even know if these will even be black in color. It seems doubtful, more likely they’ll just be darker in relation to Bud’s other offerings, in much the same way the original pale ales weren’t really pale, just paler than the popular dark beers at the time of their introduction. Again, it’s all relative. Plus, calling beers “black” this or that just sounds cooler, especially to the hipster millennials they’re obviously targeting with these beers. Some have speculated that it’s in response to the recent success that Yuengling has enjoyed with their (slightly) darker beers, but I don’t know. It certainly will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months.
Did anybody else see this? I was watching the Colbert Report last night, as I often do, and happened to catch a commercial for “Bud Light Beer Camp.” If I’d had a beer at the time, I might have done a spit take. As litigious as Anheuser-Busch InBev has been, is it really possible that they could not have noticed that Sierra Nevada has been running a pretty high profile beer camp now for several years? Sierra Nevada Beer Camp has to date done at least 43 beer camps (I did #41), which is how many are listed at the Beer Camp website. But since 43 was held in 2011, it’s probably closer to 50 by now. Certainly, there’s been enough of them for ABI to have noticed. [UPDATE: Since I originally posted this, a colleague sent me a note that they knew someone who did Beer Camp #67 and believe that it’s closer to 80.]
I can just hear ABI’s lawyers, if the situation was reversed, arguing that this would create confusion in the mind of the consumer. I couldn’t find any of the commercials on YouTube, so I just photographed it on my television screen.
Doing a Google search, all I could find was links to a few comedian’s websites talking about how they were involved in a series of “Bud Light beer camp” ads for Comedy Central. One conedian, Adam Newman, even had an embedded video, but it has been taken down. That site said it was a “six-part Bud Light ‘Beer Camp’ series” and included “other hilarious comedians Trevor Williams, Zack Poitras, Craig Rowin, and Jermaine Fowler.” He said it was “running this summer on Comedy Central.”
A second Bud Light Beer Camp commercial ran at the end of the Colbert Report, and that one included a screen promoting the Port Paradise Music Festival, which appears to be a two-day music festival and cruise to the Bahamas that they’re sponsoring.
I assume that even with all of Sierra Nevada’s resources, they still won’t be taking ABI to court over this, though I imagine if the situation was reversed, that’s exactly what Bud would do.
By now you’ve already seen the news that Anheuser-Busch InBev has taken another step closer to realizing their quest for world domination in the beer business. They’d already owned half of Mexican powerhouse brewer Grupo Modelo — makers of Corona, among other brands — but it was non-voting stock and they asserted very little control over them. In fact, Corona is often a competitor in the U.S., usually with non-Bud distributors. The irony, of course, is whether you bought Bud or Corona, eventually at least some of that money still made its way to ABI. The phrase “laughing all the way to the bank” springs to mind. Hard as it to believe, they already have a new website up even though the merger’s only been finalized in the last twenty-four hours. The name of the new site is Global Beer Leader. Does anybody else think that sounds ominously close to North Korea’s “dear leader?”
ABI is paying Grupo Model $20.1 billion to become ABIM, making it the second-biggest deal ever brokered in the beer world. The first was the $52 billion InBev paid to merge with Anheuser-Busch in 2008. The deal still needs government approval, and will likely be addressed and decided in the first quarter of next year.
According to the deal, Crown Imports — the current importer of Corona and other Grupo Modelo brands under the Constellation Brands umbrella — will continue to be the importer to the U.S. In fact, part of the deal includes the sale of the half of Crown Imports owned by Grupo Modelo to Constellation Brands, who had owned the other half, for $1.85 billion. That gives them 100% control over the distribution of the Modelo brands in America. ABIM head honcho Carlos Brito told Harry Schumacher this morning that they’re looking at this as a golden opportunity primarily to combine Bud and Corona outside the U.S. in the global beer market.
Adam Nason at Beer Pulse has a helpful chart showing that the merger gives ABIM control over 8 of the top 15 global beer brands, just over half.
Full details of the deal can be found at the new website Global Beer Leader.
Here’s a strange development. Remember Anheuser-Busch InBev filed trademark applications for over a dozen telephone area codes a few months ago. Speculation ran high that they were planning on duplicating the success of their recent acquisition, Goose Island Brewing, and their 312 Urban Wheat Ale, named after the local Chicago area code, but nobody could say for sure. This past Monday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted ABI a 6-month extension to submit their mandatory “Statement of Use” forms, meaning we’ll have to wait a bit longer to discover exactly how they’re planning on using those area codes.
Pro Brewer is now reporting — though the original sources are Evan Benn on St. Louis Today and Jenn Litz at Craft Business Daily — that ABI has spent over $12,000 filing similar applications to lock-up over 40 airport codes, including “LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco), MIA (Miami), BOS (Boston) and LGA (New York LaGuardia).” Again, no word on what the plan is for them, but it would have to be for a beer name, wouldn’t it? What else could it be? Surely not just making sure no one else uses them? ‘Cause that would be kinda evil. What’s next, famous zip codes? Two-digit state codes? There was a great joke Lily Tomlin used to tell in her stand-up act. “I love it how New York City named their streets after all the famous numbers.”
Wow, there’s a lot going over at Anheuser-Busch InBev, and besides the slip in sales of their core brands. Last week, rumors abounded that ABI was planning to roll out some version of 100% Share of Mind, which had been the “unofficial” policy until a few years ago, when it became unworkable. I wrote about it four years ago as it started to wane in Losing Their Share of Mind, and you can get the history and background of the policy there, assuming you’re unfamiliar with it. In a nutshell, A-B insisted that their distributors focus ONLY on A-B and A-B-related brands, and there were ways they had for dealing with those distributors that didn’t toe the line. And it worked well enough while A-B brands were selling well, but when they began to slip, it became harder to enforce and harder for distributors to remain profitable without taking on non-A-B brands, especially craft brands.
According to Beer Business Daily, ABI “is again turning up the leverage with Sales Opportunity Teams starting next week.” Apparently “Sales Opportunity Teams” (SOT) is the new buzzword for it this time around. They continued:
The SOTs, which A-B chief Dave Peacock has repeatedly said are not punitive in nature, will certainly be uncomfortable for distributors with growing competing brands in the house, as they try to explain this or that competing display or tap handle on the floor.
It’s got to be even harder this time, with craft beer riding a wave, with great growth, higher rings and consequently more profits. Sell less, make more. Hard to walk away from that, but of course having the best-selling brands is also pretty attractive, too. So what’s a distributor to do?
Peacock was one of the few remaining high-level holdovers who had stayed with the company after it was acquired in 2008 by InBev. He was only one of two non-Busch family members to hold the title of CEO.
Peacock is well liked by wholesalers and is known as reasonable, fair and an advocate for the second tier. The latest pressure on wholesalers by InBevAB may certainly have prompted Peacocks departure.
Peacock began his career at A-B in 1992 and was promoted to president in 2008 in the wake of the acquisition after serving as VP-marketing since late 2007. Many U.S. executives departed after the InBev takeover, but Peacock was handpicked by the new owners to lead the U.S. operation.
Harry Schuhmacher, in his Beer Business Daily, broke the news this morning, calling it “a watershed moment in the history of A-B since its acquisition by InBev.”
Coincidence? Hard to imagine the two developments are completely unrelated, especially since Beer Business Daily, presumably working from a press release, states he’s leaving “to spend more time with his family and pursue other business interests.” I’m always more than a little suspicious when that’s the official reason for leaving, as it so often is in circumstances like this one.
Peacock is succeeded by Luiz Fernando Edmond, who until today was the Zone President of North America. Oh, and Bud Light Platinum is coming soon, in the cobalt blue bottle, and should be on store shelves as early as this week. They’re calling it a “game changer,” but I tend to think these other two developments will change the beer landscape far more than a Bud Light line extension.