Friday, December 11, 2015

Is Big Beer Making It Harder For You To Get The Better Craft Beers?

Makers of Add caption
I don't begrudge anyone who enjoys beers like Budweiser, Natural Light or Miller Light.

I think the stuff is terrible, but that's my snobby opinion. Still, I like to keep trying craft beers.

It seems like a new craft beer appears on the market every second. Which is a good thing.

However, Big Beer, the giant companies like Anhauser-Busch/InBev (AB InBev) that make Budweiser and similar products, are probably going to make it harder for you to get the craft beers you love.

Not impossible, mind you, but harder.

According to Mother Jones, via the Wall Street Journal, independent craft beers make up 11 percent or so of the market, and that share is growing. Big Beer is NOT happy about that, because they're losing market share.

To combat this, Big Beer is offering incentives to local distributers who stock the shelves at your local supermarket and corner store  to basically keep craft beers off the shelves.

Says the Wall Street Journal: "Distributers whose sales volume are 95 percent made up of AB/InBev brands would be eligible to have the brewer cover as much as half of there contractual marketing support for those brands, which includes retail promotion and display costs. AB InBev, which introduced the plan at a meeting of distributors in St. Louis, estimates participating distributors would receive an average annual benefit of $200,000 each."

That's a chunk of change, and that's why you often see a tiny area of store shelves devoted to craft beers, while you get aisles and aisles of Budweiser and Natural Light.

The AB InBev incentive program would also limit shelf space to craft brewers who produce less than 15,000 barrels or sell beer in only one state.

That's because Big Beer is scared of the competition by relative large craft brewers like Sierra Nevada or Long Trail.

The incentive program for brewers is voluntary, so it sounds like it avoids violating anti trust laws. But the incentive is so sweet that few distributors would likely blow it off, says the Wall Street Journal.
Makers of beers like Budweiser want to make it harder
to buy craft beers, like 14th Star Brewing Co. products
in Vermont, but don't worry, you'll still be able to get
them and not have to swill Natural Light. 

The incentive program says a lot about the makers of brews like Budweiser and such.

They perhaps don't have the quality to compete with craft brewers so they use their financial might to try to crowd the craft brews out of the market.

This is a First World problem, of course. Nobody is going to die because it's a little harder for the public to buy craft beer.  But it is an interesting comment on American big business practices: Use existing clout and finances to stifle competition.

It won't be impossible to buy craft beer, of course. There are so many brew pubs and such around the nation springing up that have great beers. You can go directly to these breweries and buy whichever craft beer you like best.

For instance, in my town of St. Albans, Vermont, I can just go down to the excellent 14th Star Brewing Co. and pick up a growler of their finest. No need to settle for Natural Light (ugh!) that's for sure.

And as for all that Budweiser filling an entire aisle at the local supermarket: I appreciate your efforts, Anheiser-Busch, but I think I'll pass.

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