Thursday, August 08, 2013

Budweiser: Can It Go Global?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Anheuser Busch Inbev is making a big push to take the Budweiser brand global.   A quick look at the brand's performance in the United States tells us why the company is focused on expanding Budweiser's global reach.  The historic brand's consumption in the US has fallen for twenty-four straight years, and it has now fallen to number 3 in market share in the United States (behind Bud Light and Coors Light).   Budweiser faces challenges winning over customers in foreign markets though.  As the Wall Street Journal reports:

"Adolphus Busch launched a pale lager in St. Louis fashioned after beer from the Bohemian town of Budweis—has never won over most beverage connoisseurs. It scores only a 56, when any rating below 70 is "poor," on the website Beer Advocate. In Europe, where some beer brands have been popular for 500 years, Budweiser 'is not seen as a real beer by beer aficionados,' says Ian Shackleton, a London-based analyst with Nomura."

Budweiser faces a more fundamental challenge though.   In global markets, the local beer brands still dominate.  Many companies, including Anheuser Busch Inbev, have pursued acquisitions across the globe, because they understand this dynamic.  In the article, SAB Miller CEO is quoted: 

"We remain convinced beer is fundamentally a local business,'' says Alan Clark, SABMiller's chief executive in an interview. Although SABMiller is expanding international distribution of brands such as Miller Genuine Draft and Italy's Peroni, it puts far greater stock in its local beers, like Snow. "There's an emotional resonance we find consumers have with beer brands which frankly is different," he says. "We just see it continuing."

Of course, the question is:  How large are those global economies of scale, if local brands dominate so much.  What value does the global parent add?   I wish that Alan Clark had commented on those core questions.

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