January 2021

USA – Constellation Brands saw sales of Corona rise in 2020

Americans drank plenty of Corona and Modelo beers while being stuck at home during the pandemic, boosting Constellation Brands’ third quarter results (until end of November 2020) beyond investors’ estimates. Constellation posted a turnover of USD 2.44 billion for the quarter, up 22 percent over the same quarter 2019. Its operating income was USD 783 million, an increase of 30 percent. Constellation’sbeer business, its major earner, grew revenue to USD 1.7 billion (+30 percent) and operating income to USD 715 million (+39 percent). For its 2021 fiscal year, Constellation is targeting a net sales growth of 7 to 9 percent, and operating income growth of 8 to 10 percent.

USA – Beer sales in 2020 almost unaffected by covid-19

The NBWA, the beer distributors’ industry body, says that Americans were consuming virtually the same volume of beer in a year-over-year analysis. But within the segment there have been remarkable shifts. Hard seltzers are the beer industry’s rising stars, and sales to retailers (STRs) in this category increased significantly from 2019. In mid-summer 2020, hard seltzers’ STRs were two million cases, more than double the amount a year previously, the NBWA reports.

USA – Craft breweries: scraping though 2020

The Brewers Association expects the craft brewing industry to have witnessed around 700 openings in 2020. That is about 30 percent lower than in 2019, when there were more than 900 openings and the total number of craft breweries stood at 8,300. Data suggest that in 2020 closings may be similar, if not lower than in 2019 (about 300 brewery closings). That number may rise, though, given the sharp decline in sales among craft brewers. Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s Chief Economist, fears that 2021 will be a year where the closing number matches the current market reality more accurately, and he will see closings rise sharply.

USA – Boston beer baron embroiled in legal spat with two sons

Jerry Sheehan, 89, has fallen out with two of his sons, after they filed a suit which accuses him of “misappropriating” USD 80 million of company funds, by splitting it with his six other children, on top of paying himself USD 45 million. US media reported in early January 2021 that Mr Sheehan has been accused of misconduct by his son Tim, 62, and a trustee representing the interests of another son, John, 59.

South Africa – AB-InBev fights ban on alcohol sales in court

AB-InBev’s local division, SA Breweries (SAB), will challenge the country’s ban on alcohol sales in court, saying the measure to contain the coronavirus is unconstitutional. SAB, which makes popular lagers including Castle Lite, Hansa and Carling Black Label, supports a reduction in trading times, but sees a prohibition as “beyond what is reasonable and necessary,” according to a statement.

United Kingdom – Watchdog to probe into Diageo’s acquisition of Chase

The Competition regulator announced on 8 January 2021 that it will probe Diageo’s intended purchase of Chase Distillery. The Competition & Markets Authority said it is considering whether the deal will result in the “substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the UK for goods or services”. The gin boom – also called the “ginaissance” – has helped the total number of UK distilleries to more than double in the past five years, from 180 to about than 440 in 2019, of which 228 were in England alone. There are now more distilleries in England than in Scotland.

India – Kirin buys minority stake in craft brewer Bira 91

The Japanese brewer plans to acquire a stake of slightly under 10 percent in the local craft brewer Bira for about USD 30 million, The Financial Times (FT) reported on 4 January 2021. The deal will be Kirin’s first bet on premium beer in India. Kirin’s recent focus on craft breweries reflects the group’s effort to shift its portfolio towards high-end products. In 2019, its Australian subsidiary, Lion, acquired New Belgium Brewing, the fourth-ranked craft brewer in the US. In 2016, Kirin had bought a 25 percent stake in Brooklyn Brewery. It also acquired Fourpure Brewing and Magic Rock Brewing, two UK craft brewers, in 2018 and 2019, respectively. India is seen as a largely untapped beer market with per capita consumption of beer standing at 2 litres only.

India – Report details how Carlsberg, SABMiller and UB fixed beer prices

Top executives of Carlsberg, SABMiller and India’s United Breweries (UB) exchanged commercially sensitive information and colluded to fix beer prices in India over eleven years, according to a government antitrust investigation released in December 2020.

Australia – Asahi sells online retailer BoozeBud back to founders

Japan’s Asahi, which bought the country’s leading brewer Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) from AB-InBev in 2020, has sold its leading online alcohol retailer BoozeBud back to the business’ founders. It was AB-InBev’s unit ZX Ventures, which had bought BoozeBud in August 2018, to develop CUB’s e-commerce strategy. It included, among others, a trial to sell beer via eBay. All these activities must have riled retailers no end. After a review, though, Asahi decided to return to its core business, which means selling its products through its retail customers, and BoozeBud became surplus to requirements.

United Kingdom – Pub operators offer their sites as vaccination centres

Scottish craft brewer BrewDog said that it is in talks with the UK government about using its closed bars as temporary coronavirus vaccination centres. It also said it would give anyone vaccinated at one of its bars a commemorative can of beer. Coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns across the UK forced the company, which was founded in 2007 and is valued at almost USD 2 billion, to close its 50 or so UK bars.

USA – AB-InBev sells minority stake in its US metal container plant

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management and a group of institutional investors acquired a 49.9 percent stake in AB-InBev’s US-based metal container plant for about USD 3 billion. The transaction was announced on 23 December 2020. AB-InBev has been burdened with debt after its 2016 takeover of nearest rival SABMiller and has made deleveraging a priority. The brewer said the deal would allow it to generate proceeds to repay debt, while retaining operational control of the plants. It has signed a long-term supply agreement for meeting its can needs over the duration of the deal with Apollo.

USA – Craft brewers in 2020: a mixed picture

Early pandemic predictions projected thousands of craft brewery closings in 2020. But government aid and brewers’ ingenuity helped breweries to make it through the tough year. Take the state of Ohio: When it comes to openings and closings, the Ohio craft brewing industry had a more or less “normal” year. Ohio remains home to around 360 craft breweries. Approximately 40 new ones opened in 2020 while only 12 closed. These numbers are comparable to past years.