Anheuser-Busch is best known as North America's King of Beers, as a result of its Budweiser and Michelob brands. In a shock development in 2008, this long-established American icon was acquired by Belgian-Brazilian rival InBev for a whopping $52bn. That deal created a mammoth new business, the world's largest brewer by a considerable margin. The combined company now operates under the name AB InBev, although its main US subsidiary is still known as Anheuser-Busch. It remains the clear leader in the US beer market, with around 41% share in 2019. However, for years, traditional beer has come under relentless and intense pressure from a succession of rival alcoholic drinks: flavoured malt beverages, spirits, wine, and most recently hard seltzers. The Budweiser family, led by Bud Light, still accounts for over half the total beer market, but the market itself has been slowly shrinking. Other important brands under the Anheuser-Busch umbrella include Michelob, Natural Light, Busch and European import Stella Artois. The decline in sales of traditional brews - especially Bud Light and Budweiser - prompted an aggressive push by the company into faster-growing and higher-priced craft beer in the 2010s. AB acquired more than a dozen regional brewers, now consolidated under the banner of The High End. Key brands and breweries include Shock Top, Goose Island, Redhook, Elysian, Golden Road and the UK's Camden Hells. It continues to dabble in numerous other segments including Mexican beers (including Montejo), malt beverages (Bacardi Silver, Lime-a-Rita and others) and since 2019 even spirits. On the basis of can't beat em, join em, Anheuser-Busch began launching seltzer versions of several brands, including Natural Light and Bud Light, from the second half of 2019 onwards. The US business is partnered by Labatt Breweries, now Canada's biggest brewer ahead of long-time rival Molson after it secured local distribution of Corona Extra, which AB InBev owns everywhere except the US. For 2020, Anheuser-Busch InBev North America reported revenues of $15.6bn, up marginally on the year before, and equivalent to 33% of the group total. Revenues from the US alone were $13.8bn. However, volumes have been falling steadily for several years, down to 106.8m hl in 2020 (from 133.6m hl a decade earlier). Until the InBev takeover, Anheuser-Busch was also one of the largest theme park operators in the US (Busch Gardens, Seaworld and others), as well as a leading manufacturer of aluminium containers. The parks business was sold in 2009, and the group has gradually reduced its exposure to materials manufacturing and recycling. It sold a near-50% stake in its aluminium can business in 2020 to private equity. Joao Castro Neves was replaced abruptly as president of AB InBev North America in 2016 by Michel Doukeris. The latter was himself named as the new global CEO of AB InBev in 2021, and is being replaced as North America president by Brendan Whitworth.
Capsule checked 11th March 2020
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Who are the competitors of Anheuser-Busch? The company's main competitors in the US beer sector are MillerCoors, Constellation Brands and Heineken. In Canada, its main competitor is Molson, a unit of MolsonCoors. See Alcoholic Beverages Sector for other companies
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Historical profile information for Anheuser-Busch
Marketer Moves 7th Sep 2021: New CMO at AB InBev USA. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Marketer Moves 29th Jun 2021: New North America president at AB InBev. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 4th May 2020: The ill-tempered war of words between Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors is back on. An appeals court overturned an earlier judgement in favour of Molson Coors, who had sued their arch-rival for "false and misleading" allegations in advertising for Bud Light that other beers were made using corn syrup. That's fair game, said the appeals court: "If Molson Coors does not like the sneering tone of Anheuser-Busch's ads, it can mock Bud Light in return," it ruled. "Litigation should not be a substitute for competition in the market." Molson Coors does use corn syrup during the fermentation process for its Coors Light and Miller Lite beers, but there is none in the end product. Several other Molson Coors products use no corn syrup at any stage of the manufacturing process, such as Blue Moon and Urquell; while several AB InBev beers, such as Natural Light, Busch Light and Rolling Rock, do use corn syrup.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Oct 2019: The increasingly rancorous war of words between AB InBev and Miller Coors took a new turn for the worse this month. There has never been much love lost between America's two biggest brewers, who have made a habit of needling one another for years. Yet new depths were plumbed at the start of 2019 when ABI used a Bud Light Super Bowl ad to accuse its rival of using corn syrup - worse still, high-fructose corn syrup - in its beers, suggesting that the product was cheaply made and inauthentic, a claim Miller Coors denied. Several further ads followed. At first, Miller Coors tried to laugh those accusations off, offering free beers in some bars every time ABI repeated the accusation in its ads. Eventually, though, the company lost patience and initiated a lawsuit, resulting in an injunction against further such claims by ABI. In the latest development, however, ABI has accused Miller Coors of stealing its secret beer recipes. It claims an ABI employee was persuaded to hand over secret recipes for Bud Light and Michelob Ultra that described their brewing methods, as well as the barley and hop blends used and the volume and relative weight of ingredients.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Feb 2019: AB InBev dipped its toe back into the hard stuff with a deal to acquire Cutwater Spirits, a San Diego marketer of vodka, mixers and premixed canned cocktails. No price was disclosed. The business will sit alongside the Ritas and Spiked Seltzer malt beverage portfolio and other brands in the company's "Beyond Beer" division. Cutwater was launched in 2015 by senior managers from craft brewer Ballast Point, acquired that year by Constellation Brands. It's not Anheuser-Busch's first venture into spirits: it had already dabbled in that sector in the mid-2000s as a reaction to the first declines in the US beer market. The company launched a bizarre liqueur-based cocktail mix under the name Jekyll & Hyde as well as high-end vodka Purus. Sales were poor and the experiment was discontinued a year before AB was targeted for takeover by InBev.
Adbrands Social Media 28th Jan 2019: "Robots". AB InBev unveiled another of its eight planned Super Bowl ads. FCB Chicago's campaign for Michelob Ultra lacks the star power of last year's Chris Pratt spots, but it has an even cooler idea. Sure, robots are better than humans at just about everything. But they can't enjoy a cool refreshing beer after all that effort, so why bother?
Adbrands Daily Update 20th Dec 2018: AB InBev is following US rival Constellation into the legalised cannabis market. Its Canadian subsidiary Labatt will join forces with pot producer High Park, a unit of Tilray Inc, in a new partnership that will research cannabis-infused alcohol-free beverages for the local market. Each company will invest $50m in the venture.
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