Big Beer Getting Bigger?

From the producer, David Page: Two giants may merge.

It isn't just craft brewers getting taken over by the big boys. One of the big boys wants to take over the other. Yep, Anheuser-Busch InBev has informed SABMiller that it wants to take it over. These are the two largest brewers in the world - InBev is number one by market share, SABMiller makes over 200 beers. And there's no guarantee the deal will take place, especially in light of anti-trust regulations around the world. But if it happens, it will create a behemoth. Yes, an injured behemoth incapable of stopping the world's inexorable slide toward a greater market share for craft beer. 

The stock market's initial reaction to the potential deal was positive. When two companies become one, redundancies are eliminated (make that, employees get fired), and supposedly the newer operation makes more money. But there's no reason to expect them to make better beer. Because, this is about Wall Street and Hong Kong and the "City" in London. Not about beer. Even though it is clear the big boys fear great beer. Their profits are down. In the U.S. their market share is down. And the reason is craft. Yes, GM is a very solid car company, but I'd still rather have a hand-built Ferrari than a Chevy. Same with my beer. 

What strikes me as I contemplate the potential merger is the word 'marketing.' To large corporations, it seems marketing is far more important than quality. And I'm referring to almost any big corporation here (there are exceptions - I like Costco). I just bought a new iPhone (had to, my old one died). When I called Verizon to make the purchase, the phone was answered immediately. When I called back a few days later because the phone they sent was defective, I was transferred to the hell of sitting on hold and listening to music. Marketing had made the sale, so the fact that the phone didn't work and the customer felt abused was irrelevant. The accountants had certainly run the numbers and decided this way made the most money. 

Which brings me back to craft beer. As craft brands grow, as they fight for a place on the shelves, some so-called experts preach the liturgy of marketing. The message is, however good your beer may be, you have to market aggressively to get seen and bought. You may. Or you may be happy as a small brewery selling to contented locals. But whatever you choose to do about marketing - it really is all about the beer. The quality. The pursuit of perfection. The joy of the craft. That's what makes craft beer special, however big the big-boys become.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

Continue the Discussion