Craft beers have been eating away at AB InBev’s market share for several years. Craft breweries have popped up all over the country, and AB InBev has lost more than 4.5 percent in market share because of those craft beers. In 2011, AB InBev started to purchase craft beer breweries and since then, four small breweries are now part of the AB InBev stable of brands. Young beer drinkers want craft beers, and Anheuser-Bush wants distributors to push their craft brands instead of independent craft brands.
Ricardo Guimarães, a Brazilian entrepreneur and banker, thinks the new AB InBev incentive plan for distributors will hurt consumers. The AB InBev incentive plan offers distributors marketing and retail display reimbursements if they push AB InBev craft brands. The amount of those reimbursements could exceed $200,000 a year. That’s enough for some distributors to drop small craft beers and add AB InBev craft brands. Guimarães an avid soccer fan, beer investor and club sponsor knows the beer business. Foreign companies have been buying small craft breweries in the United States, for that last ten years. Brazil has two of the largest breweries in the world, and Guimarães thinks the AB InBev plan will hurt those foreign investors as well as American consumers.
The craft beer business has grown by 18 percent over the last two years in spite of AB InBev strangle hold on the domestic market. Guimarães knows what payoffs can do to an industry. Payoffs are common in Brazil and Guimarães doesn’t want the AB InBev plan to destroy the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the beer brewing market. Ricardo believes in fair play and the AB InBev incentive plan allows distributors to play unfairly.
The Department of Justice may agree with Guimarães. The DOJ is investigating the claims of several craft beer companies that say the AB InBev incentive plan will hurt their ability to get shelf space in retail stores. Craft beer companies think Anheuser-Bush is trying to buy back some of the market share they are losing, and that’s not fair play. But Anheuser-Bush has enough money to make it hard for craft beer labels to get the exposure they need and therein lies the problem.
Mr. Guimarães thinks Anheuser-Bush is too big and is trying to control the market using money instead of making the best craft beers in the domestic market.