Banker Ricardo Guimarães Is Concerned About The New Anheuser-Busch InBev Domestic Strategy

Anheuser-Bush is the world’s largest brewery, but sagging sales over the last couple of years has management concerned The rise of craft beers across the United States has made Anheuser-Bush nervous, so executives have been making deals with small breweries and buying them. The AB-InBev family now includes more than 200 brands, according to Brazilian banker and beer entrepreneur Ricardo Guimarães. Mr. Guimarães said the giant brewery introduced a new incentive plan at the beginning of 2016.

The AB-InBev plan could offer some independent distributors more than $1.5 million if they sell AB InBev brands instead of local craft brands. If a distributor’s sales are 95 percent AB InBev brands, they could get half of their marketing costs for those brands back from Anheuser-Bush. That offer includes display costs as well as retail promotion costs. Participating distributors could receive more than $200,000 a year from the St. Louis-based brewery.

According to Mr. Guimarães, one distributor has already taken Anheuser-Bush offer. A St. Louis-based distributor accepted the deal, and will drop at least one Oregon brewery in order to receive the incentive money. Guimarães is not a lawyer, but he is an astute businessman that has interests in coffee, mining, cattle and beer. Ricardo comes from a banking family, but his family also invested in several other Brazilian businesses.

Ricardo keeps his finger on the pulse of the international market, especially what is happening to businesses in the United States. Mr. Guimarães is a major investor in soccer. Beer and soccer go hand in hand in Brazil. The beer market in Brazil is a lucrative market. Beer sales were controlled by local breweries until several years ago when import regulations were changed.

The Department of Justice in the U.S. is investigating the new AB-InBev incentive plan. Antitrust regulators are reviewing claims made by several craft breweries. Those breweries say AB-InBev is pushing distributors to carry only Anheuser-Bush brands. AB-InBev offers distributors a lot of brand choices, so it is easy for some distributors to pick up a craft label from Anheuser-Bush. The AB-InBev offer is making it hard for small local craft beers to get shelf space in retail stores. The investigation into the Anheuser-Bush InBev incentive plan has just started, but Ricardo Guimarães believes the small breweries that have overtaken Anheuser-Bush in several markets around the Unites States have a legitimate claim.

The AB-InBev plan is similar to the old pay-to-play music deal that record companies used to entice local radio stations with to play only songs that were recorded on their label. Guimarães know a lot of payoffs, and this AB-InBev incentive plan sounds like a payoff scheme that could hurt the small craft breweries that don’t have the money to fight the wealthy giant that already dominates the beer industry in the states.

Follow Ricardo Guimarães on Twitter.

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