Using a twisted phrase worthy of Yoda, A-B launched the “Born On Date” in September of 1996 and with it, their advertising began including the self-evident tagline “fresh beer tastes better.” They were nothing, if not fastidious, in enforcing it and their efficient distributor network pulled any product that was older than 110 days.
Over the last decade plus, A-B has used that policy as a way to criticize every other big brewer not doing likewise, which is pretty much everyone else. But early last month, Anheuser-Busch suddenly announced that they would be abandoning the cherished “born on date” for a number of brands, including Bud Ice along with Honey Lager, Pale Ale and Porter under the Michelob brand. Effectively it’s all the “new and niche beers” that will stay on the shelves longer, at least 180 days. The born on date will continue to be used on the flagship Budweiser and Bud Light, and also Bud Select, Busch and Natty Light.
As most people knew, the product at that age was most likely still drinkable, and as a result who knows how much money was lost. Well, the new overlords at A-B InBev are not A-B, and they’re loathe to throw money away if they can possibly help it, any money, no matter what. Frugal is the kind word for their penchant for implementing cost-cutting measures, so it comes as no surprise that they would discontinue what was obviously a wasteful, albeit P.R. savvy, program. But to save face and try to convince the public that the change is good, despite what they’ve been saying for over ten years about anyone not doing what they did, the spin machine has been turned up to overdrive.
They’re claiming that the 110-day limit is no longer necessary because “A-B has improved its brewing processes and packaging — using new fillers and bottle crowns — that reduce the amount of oxygen in its beers.” If you believe that, I’ve got some swamp land in Florida I’d like to show you.
In the statement A-B released, supply veep Peter Kraemer said the following. “In recent years our brewery team has made significant improvements in both the brewing and packaging processes that have resulted in our beers leaving the brewery at the peak of freshness, and then maintaining that freshness much longer than in the past.”
So, assuming that’s true — a doubtful assumption at best — then why aren’t they abandoning the “born on date” for all their products? Can it be possible that after inventing these so-called new and improved “processes and packaging” that they decided not to use them on their best-selling products? You tell me, does that make any sense? Or is it more likely that’s the spin to avoid making it seem like they’re going back on the self-aggrandizing commitment that they’ve been using over ten years to proselytize brand loyalty and make their products seem fresher than their competitors, which of course isn’t remotely true.
We’re certainly seeing some remarkable changes since the new rulers arrived in St. Louis; layoffs, new policies to pay suppliers more slowly and abandoning the “born on date” for several of their brands. These are all measures taken to cut costs, save money and pay of the debt incurred from buying A-B. Undoubtedly, there will be more of these. What’s next? Only time will tell.