Posted September 2019
South Africa – AB-InBev receives approval to market Diageo’s brands
In early September 2019, AB-InBev’s local unit SAB has won regulatory approval to take over the distribution of Guinness – under the condition that if a secret threshold of Guinness sales is reached, it will have to be brewed locally. Read on
South Korea – Locals boycott Japanese beers
Imports of Japanese beers have slumped to almost zero in August, after consumers have taken to shun Japanese products – a boycott which was sparked by a bitter dispute between Seoul and Tokyo. Data by South Korea’s statisticians, which were released on 16 September 2019, show that Japanese brewers shipped only USD 223,000 worth of beer to South Korea in August, down 97 percent from USD 7.57 million last year. Read on
Australia – CUB buys wine-in-can firm Riot
Is CUB back into wine? The country’s major brewer has acquired Adelaide-based Riot Wine, and says it has ambitions for the company’s sales. Established in 2016, Riot currently produces about 500 hl wine per year, but CUB wants to lift that to more than 25,000 hl within five years. The transaction was reported on 16 September 2019 but financial details were not disclosed.
Riot is the only Australian wine company to exclusively sell wine in cans and kegs. Its flagship product is a rosé. Reportedly, Riot generates about 90 percent of its sales from draught wines in pubs and bars. Read on
USA – MillerCoors seeks buzz with hard coffee
Forget Irish coffee: MillerCoors is testing a ready-to-drink alcoholic coffee in a few markets in partnership with La Colombe Coffee Roasters. La Colombe Hard Cold Brew Coffee, which contains 4.2 percent ABV, is already trialled in Boston, Denver, and parts of Florida. As MillerCoors reports on its blog on 9 September 2019, the alcohol in the drink comes from a malt base, like beer, and cane sugar. Packaged in 266 ml cans, the drink is sold in two flavours: black or vanilla. A can will cost USD 2.79. Read on
Singapore – Heineken partners with Grab’s delivery service
Consumers in Southeast Asia will soon be able to grab their Heineken drinks via the Grab app. On 17 September 2019 the Dutch brewer signed a partnership with Singapore-based “super app” Grab to bring its products on the latter’s platform. Read on
USA – AB-InBev to appeal against MillerCoors’ corn syrup legal win
A federal judge has issued an injunction against AB-InBev in early September 2019 in order to stop it from claiming that its beers are free from corn syrup. He also barred the brewer from using any language related to this matter on its packaging. Read on
USA – Patagonia’s trademark lawsuit against AB-InBev is still ongoing
AB-InBev will have to defend itself against claims by Patagonia that it has misappropriated the outdoor company’s brand, a federal judge has ruled. At the centre of the dispute is the Patagonia beer brand that AB-InBev has introduced into the US from Argentina, where it was registered as a trademark by the German brewer Warsteiner over a decade ago. Read on
Scotland – Strike at Diageo’s distilleries called off at last minute
Strike action has been suspended at Diageo’s Scottish operations after management and unions struck a pay deal. Workers had been determined to walk out at dozens of sites on 17 September 2019, following the unions’ rejection of a “final” pay hike offer of 2.8 percent on 16 September. Read on
Germany – Krones to make hundreds redundant
The world’s leading manufacturer of filling and packaging technology, Krones AG, has been facing strong headwinds. So far, there has only been talk about a hiring freeze and measures to reduce material costs. But on 17 September 2019 Krones announced that there will be redundancies. Up to 400 jobs could be lost. A spokesperson for Krones has confirmed that between 300 to 400 jobs could be affected. This number applies to all its five locations in Germany and to both permanent employees and temporary workers. Krones employs over 9,600 people in Germany alone. Read on
Germany – AB-InBev invests in craft brewer Crew Republic
AB-InBev has bought a 20 percent stake in Munich craft brewer Crew Republic, which, at 9,000 hl in annual beer sales, is among Germany’s largest. But over the past few years it has seen its spare capital shrink while it has struggled to hike sales. In the official announcement, Crew Republic and AB-InBev said on 30 August 2019 that the agreement is primarily about distribution. As of September 2019, AB-InBev’s German unit will take on the national distribution of Crew Republic’s beers. Read on
Germany – Tegernsee brewery’s beerhall scores victory against Google
Annoyed with Google’s misleading entries on waiting times for the brewery’s restaurant, the publican has sought to drag Google to court over this. On 27 August 2019, Google accepted an injunction granted to the publican to avoid further legal battles.
Tegernsee brewery – its full name is Ducal Bavarian Brewery of Tegernsee – is located on lake Tegernsee in southern Bavaria, and covers a wing of a former monastery. Owned by the aristocratic Wittelsbach family, the brewery and its attached restaurant (called Bräustüberl) have been going for over 300 years. Reportedly, the restaurant caters to about 600,000 guests each year. False information on waiting times could have hit its business hard.
A Google spokesperson has confirmed that in July, it had already blocked the function “waiting times” for the restaurant on its search engine. Likewise, it has accepted the publican’s request to keep it off.
Google’s search engine had indicated waiting times of 15 minutes on weekdays and 90 minutes on weekends in a chart. The restaurant’s operator, Peter Hubert, argued that these entries are untruthful and could deter guests, who often check on waiting times on the internet before making a visit.
In fact, he had been alerted to the erroneous entries by visitors as early as 2017.
What makes the case particularly interesting is that Mr Hubert decided to sue Google in Germany, rather than in the US, where Google is headquartered. As the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has the story, Google’s office in Hamburg refused to accept the lawyers’ writ sent through the mail three times. Only when the court sent a bailiff could the writ be delivered.
Mr Hubert’s lawyers suspect that there were two reasons why Google decided to settle out of court in the end. If the case had gone to court, the court firstly would have settled once and for all if Google can be held legally responsible in Germany too. And two, the court would have cast a verdict on the question if Google can be held responsible for its algorithms generating the entries as well.
Germany – Forty Bavarian brewers seek to hike the deposit on beer crates
As of March 2020, several dozen Bavarian breweries will increase the deposit on beer crates from currently EUR 1.50 to EUR 6 (USD 6.60). This is meant to persuade tardy consumers to return crates more quickly rather than throw them away or store them in their basements. Putting pressure on negotiations between various German beer industry groups to agree on a nation-wide hike for the beer crate deposit, the Association of Private Breweries in Bavaria announced on 23 August 2019 that it will barge ahead, with 40 of its members promising to implement a deposit increase as of March 2020. There are more than 1,500 breweries in Germany and all use their own branded crates. The deposit has remained unchanged for decades. Read on
Germany – Return-refill system for beer puts environmental benefits into doubt
Once the pride of German brewers, the country’s much-touted return-refill system for beer bottles and crates is becoming more and more unmanageable, as brewers flood the market with proprietary containers, thus adding to the SKU deluge. The current controversy among brewers, whether to hike the deposit on crates or not, is symptomatic of their heedless investments in packaging, which all aim to underline the uniqueness of their products, all the while beer consumption continues to decline. Read on
USA – AB-InBev waives option to buy remaining stake in CBA
AB-InBev let a deadline to buy all of Portland-based Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) pass on 23 August 2019. Under a 2016 agreement, it had until the following day to purchase the rest of CBA’s shares, it did not own, for a pre-determined price of USD 24.50 per share. The decision sent shares of CBA down. Read on
Austria – Styrian town of Murau hosts biennale on Global Beer
Where on earth is Murau? And how come it holds a festival on Global Beer? Murau, a small town of about 3,500 inhabitants, lies 160 km southeast of Salzburg. First mentioned in the late 13th century, Murau’s fame, historically, rested on logging and brewing. Well, the timber industry has long lost its economic relevance and Murau’s brewery, Murauer Bier, which has been going since the 15th century, is facing strong headwinds in an increasingly fragmented domestic beer market (300 breweries and counting). Read on
United Kingdom – Hong Kong’s richest family buys Greene King for USD 5.6 billion
The listed brewer and pub operator, Greene King, with a portfolio of 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels, has been snapped up by CK Asset Holdings from Hong Kong in a GBP 4.6 billion (USD 5.6 billion) transaction. The deal is still pending shareholder and regulatory approval. The news broke on 19 August 2019 that CK Asset Holdings will pay GBP 2.7 billion for Greene King’s share capital and will take on its GBP 1.9 billion debt.
The cash consideration presents an enterprise value of 9.5 times Greene King’s profit (EBITDA), which was GBP 482 million (USD 584 million) in the 12 months to 28 April 2019. Greene King employs 38,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales. Read on
Australia – Asahi takes over Australian craft brewer Green Beacon
Japan’s Asahi is going the whole hog and has swooped on the award-winning Queensland craft brewer Green Beacon, only four weeks after it acquired market leader Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) from AB-InBev. The transaction was reported on 19 August 2019 but no financial details were disclosed. For years, rumours have been flying around that Green Beacon could be sold. It is understood, says the Australian Financial Review, that CUB had already made overtures to Green Beacon and had been trying to convince the owners to sell. It was left to Asahi to finally clinch the deal. Read on
China – CR Beer weighs taking a minority stake in AB InBev’s Asia unit
CR Beer has made an aggressive overture to AB-InBev by officially declaring that it is “weighing the possibility” of acquiring a minority stake in AB-InBev’s Asia unit. CR Beer’s CEO Jason Hou said on 16 August 2019 that a final decision has yet to be taken. Funny that Mr Hou chose to ignore business etiquette. Usually, it is left to professional meddlers, aka bankers, to act as discreet match makers. But he must have had his reasons for being so bullish and blunt. CR Beer, which is a member of the state-controlled China Resources Group and the maker of the Snow beer brand, is China’s major brewer (23 percent market share in 2018). Nevertheless, selling copious amounts of mainstream beers is not going to get it anywhere in the long-run. Read on
United Kingdom – Diageo raises stake in non-alcoholic spirit brand Seedlip
Non-boozy spirits, though a contradiction in terms, seem to be the next big thing. Hence drinks company Diageo has hiked its stake in Seedlip to a “significant majority shareholding” in early August 2019. No financial details were disclosed. The UK brand Seedlip was launched by Ben Branson in late 2015. Seeing Seedlip’s sales volume nearly triple last year, Diageo decided to more or less buy out Mr Branson, although he will remain actively involved as a shareholder and director. Read on
United Kingdom – BrewDog mulls GBP 10 million bond offering
That is clever. Deviating from its preferred route to finance through crowdfunding, the Scottish brewer and pub operator may issue a GBP 10 million (USD 12 million) bond that would repay lenders partly in beer. BrewDog founder James Watt has floated the idea on the firm’s investor website on 15 August 2019. “We are considering another GBP 10 million bond offering and this time we would pay the coupon 50 percent in beer and 50 percent in cash,” Mr Watt wrote. “Meaning investors get an annual financial return and also an annual payment in beer!” Take it for granted that BrewDog needs money to pursue its ambitious global expansion scheme. It cannot have budgeted for the purchase of Stone Berlin. The opportunity only arose in April. Read on
USA – San Diego’s craft breweries contribute USD 1.2 billion to local economy
A new report from California State University, San Marcos, shows that San Diego County’s craft beer industry continued to grow to 155 independent craft breweries in 2018, providing the region of 3 million inhabitants with a total of 202 brewery locations. The study was compiled by CSUSM, the university’s Office of Business Research and Analysis, and San Diego Brewers Guild. It was released in August 2019. Data indicate that brewery openings started to slow in 2017, but have risen slightly since. Read on