AB Gobbles Up the Industry

Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That seems to be the path that Anheuser-Busch is taking these days.

Two major announcements came out of AB this week. Seemingly unconnected. But perhaps part of a master plan.

The first was the acquisition of two beer wholesalers in the craft-rich San Francisco Bay Area. AB announced that they will buy the brand rights from M.E. Fox & Company in Santa Clara County. At the same time, AB acquired Horizon Beverage across the bridge which services Alameda (City of Oakland) and Western Contra Costa counties. Both Fox and Horizon are AB wholesalers. The plan is that AB will service the Fox footprint from the Horizon warehouse. Fox will attempt to sell the non-AB brands to the MillerCoors wholesaler DBI Beverage.

This is on the heels on AB acquiring three wholesalers in Colorado, which has caused concern in that state that it may leave some brands without a home, or at the very least with fewer options.

The second deal was announced today. Virtue Cider Company, which was founded by Greg Hall, who along with his dad John Hall, sold Goose Island Brewing Company to AB in 2011.

A year after the Hall’s sold to AB, Greg opened Virtue Cider in Michigan. Virtue was actually sold to Goose Island Brewing Company, which is owned by AB. AB has now entered into the craft cider market by buying an independent company similar to its ongoing program of buying craft breweries. There is no mention of the actual ownership on the packaging or marketing collateral, which gives the consumer the impression that these brands are small, independent companies. Meanwhile, it gives AB a foothold in the expanding craft market and also gives them “craft” brands to feed to their wholesaler network, including their company owned branches in those states which allow a brewery to own a distributorship.

Further deals are likely.