Bigger Big Beer

September 24, 2015

It seems like yesterday we released the Big Beer Duopoly report, discussing the dramatic and speedy consolidation of beer producers taking place in the late 2000s. Now beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev confirms that it approached another part of the duopoly, SABMiller, about a takeover that would result in a conglomerate of as much as $275 billion.

Meanwhile A-B InBev's counterpart and US joint venture MillerCoors LLC continues the trend of Big Beer buying up craft brewers - and California craft, at that. Big Beer continues to stave off threats of market share lost to somewhat smaller breweries, while making these plays to keep distributors in line. MillerCoors acquired Saint Archer’s and is already making plans to extend its brewer distribution beyond the state. Heineken was not far behind, with its new 50% stake relinquished from "smaller" Lagunitas Brewery (valued at roughly $1 billion).

And it doesn't look like the spending spree is ending anytime soon. The findings from our 2009 report echo resolutely in light of these recent beer deals:

  • Shareholder rights and decision-making participation continue to disappear.

  • Corporate consumption poses significant threats to the US three-tier regulatory system. While beer companies continue to deny interest in controlling beer distribution, they seek to buy distributorships wherever they can and force egregious contract provisions upon distributors who are backed into a corner to comply.

  • Big brewers continue to grow and wield their influence on global, federal, state, and local lawmakers. Beer trade associations and allied partners spend millions to oppose the most effective and cost-effective policies to protect communities and reduce alcohol-related harm (increased prices/taxes, reduced availability, and restricted advertising and promotion).

  • Beer remains the cheapest, most widely used drug in the U.S.