June 2021

USA – Jim Koch of Boston Beer has high hopes for hard seltzers

It was kind of unsettling to hear Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer, only talk about hard seltzers at the US industry gathering, the Beverage Forum, which was held in May. Is beer on the way out, and its continued decline taken for granted, that everybody is painting the future of hard seltzers and a host of Alternative Adult Beverages in glowing hues? Make no mistake: Without hard seltzers, which are classified as beer, US beer consumption is forecasted to decline 5 percent annually over the next ten years and there is little brewers can do – apart from moving into what is called “beyond beer”.

USA – White Claw’s owner: Hard seltzers to capture 30 percent of US beer

Disruption may be such an overused term. But it perfectly describes what hard seltzers did to the US beer market. At the Beverage Forum, organised by the Beverage Marketing Corporation and conducted online in early May 2021, Anthony van Mandl, 71, the owner of Mark Anthony Brands and maker of White Claw, explained which trends boosted the category.

Belgium – Tax the rich?

The AB-InBev connection is spurious at best, but this has not stopped Belgian media to sell a bizarre story about tax planning gone wrong as a love and crime story, involving the late Amicie de Spoelberch, her heirs, a corrupt lawyer and finally the Belgian tax man. Belgian media reported on 31 May 2021 that the authorities have approached the heirs of Ms de Spoelberch, herself an heiress to shares in the Artois brewery (which became Interbrew, then InBev and lastly AB-InBev) over outstanding inheritance taxes. Ms de Spoelberch’s estate at her death in 2008 was valued at nearly EUR 590 million, consisting mainly of AB-InBev shares.

Belgium – Brewers of Europe Forum: Make beer more sustainable, innovative, diverse and responsible

It was a big event by any standards. Though conducted virtually over four days, the Brewers of Europe Forum (1 – 4 June 2021) attracted an unprecedented number of delegates: nearly 2500 industry members attended the Forum’s 19 sessions, which covered a wide range of topics, from recycling and recovery to innovative brewing techniques, beer styles, marketing and packaging.

Belgium – Duvel Moortgat expects strong sales in second half of 2021

In a rare interview with the press, Michel Moortgat, the CEO of beer group Duvel Moortgat, admitted that its beer sales dropped 12 percent to 1.94 million hl in 2020, but that buoyant sales in the remainder of 2021 could make up for a lot. How did Duvel Moortgat get through the coronavirus crisis? Not so bad, Mr Moortgat told the Belgian newspaper De Tijd on 29 May 2021.

Ireland – C&C is going cap in hand to investors for EUR 151 million

The maker of Magners and Bulmers cider, the Irish C&C Group, unveiled plans to tap shareholders for cash, as it swung to an annual loss because of the pandemic. The group recorded a pre-tax loss of EUR 121 million (USD 147 million) for the year to 28 February 2021, from a profit of nearly EUR 12 million the previous year. The loss came as a direct result of the pandemic which had shuttered pubs and restaurants for large parts of the past year, decimating on-premise demand for its drinks.

USA – Craft Brewers’ #MeToo moment

Allegations of sexual, racial and other misconduct, which were published on Instagram in May, have rocked the American craft beer industry. They have prompted resignations, firings and promises for change. As the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper, has the story, the fallout occurred after a series of Instagram stories were published by Brienne Allan (@ratmagnet), who works at Notch Brewing in Massachusetts.

USA – CEOs cannot avoid politics. “We are all in the fray”

In the old days, employees lived by the rule: leave your politics and religion at the front door. Not any longer. Now they are encouraged to bring their “whole self to work”, which willy-nilly includes their political beliefs. Internal message boards are full of heated debates about all kinds of social issues. What are company bosses to do? In recent weeks, beer and beverage companies have felt compelled to publicly speak out against voting laws (Coca-Cola), social injustice (Molson Coors) and various forms of discriminations (Constellation). Incidentally, some tech firms have started to push back, The Economist newspaper reported on 22 May 2021. Google, Facebook and Shopify now discourage political debates on their internal message boards.

USA – Selling beer with a cause

Is this just an American thing or will it catch on in Europe too? US craft brewers have long used their beers as a soapbox. From Lagunitas’ Undercover Shut-Down Ale, a jab at a 2005 St Patrick’s Day police raid on their brewery, to the many anti-Trump beers, craft brewers have found that embracing a cause can help sell a product.

Europe – Bidding adieu: on brewing industry CEOs stepping down

There is only so much you can say when the CEO of AB-InBev steps down after 17 years. And it seems Heineken said much of it in February 2020, when its CEO Jean-Francois van Boxmeer announced his departure after 15 years at the helm. Consider it a given that the farewell statements were hammered out by teams of lawyers representing both sides: the brewers’ and their soon-to-be-gone CEOs. And while there are certain set phrases, dictated by convention, the differences between Heineken’s and AB-InBev’s announcements are still pertinent.

United Kingdom – Diageo’s share buyback: the end of consolidation in spirits?

The world’s major drinks company, Diageo, is sitting on GBP 9 billion (USD 12.8 billion) of cash. How best to spend it? According to Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s long-serving CEO, it is on Diageo’s shares. Diageo said on 12 May 2021 that it is resuming a cash return programme which was put on ice in April 2020, at the start of the covid pandemic. Shareholders can expect GBP 3.25 billion (USD 4.6 billion) returned to them by 2024, on top of the more than GBP 5.75 billion Diageo has spent on repurchases in the previous four years. This was reported by the Financial Times newspaper on 12 May.

USA – Pernod Ricard + Brown-Forman: a possible but unlikely merger

Call it a sign of how desperate industry watchers have become that a merger between France’s drinks firm Pernod Ricard and US distiller Brown-Forman is being talked up again, following Diageo’s recent launch of a share buyback programme. Per the website thedrinksbusiness.com, the last “megabucks deal in the drinks sector” was in 2013, when Japan’s Suntory and US distiller Beam tied the knot in a USD 14 billion merger.