20060529

Beer price cuts predicted


If a top industry analyst is correct, you should be finding lower beer prices at your favorite vendor in the next few months.

Carlos Laboy of Bear Stearns predicts the two American beer giants, Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller's Miller Brewing, will go into a cost-cutting battle as a response to the latest report of lagging beer sales.

The Beer Institute's "surprisingly negative" April report showed domestic beer volumes down 2 percent.

"If industry volumes had been positive for April, the risk of A-B and Miller having to cut prices into Memorial Day would have been diminished," Laboy says. "We suspect our expectations of 'a messy summer' are increasingly relevant."

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20060521

A-B gobbles up Rolling Rock


What's the price for a beer these days? A beer company, that is.

In the case of Rolling Rock, it's $82 million, the price Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. will pay to acquire it from InBev USA. That's the U.S. subsidiary of Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev SA.

A-B plans to begin producing Rolling Rock and Rock Green Light in August at its Newark, N.J., facility. That means the famous Latrobe, PA, brewery where Rock beers have been made since 1893, will be put up for sale and its 200 employees laid off.

"We have an ideal opportunity to grow this historic brand," Anheuser-Busch president August A. Busch IV said in a press statement. "This beer is not like others, and its consumer following is equally distinctive."

Meanwhile, A-B reportedly is about to purchase a 35% share of the Goose Island Beer Co., and take over all distribution of the Chicago beer. The impending deal was reported by the Chicago Tribune, which said neither side would comment publicly.

Sales of Goose Island grew 24 percent in 2005, led by its signature brew, Honkers Ale. According to data compiled by Information Resources Inc., Goose sold $4.2 million in beer, up from $3.4 million in 2004.

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20060518

It's a small world, after all

She has more than the world in her hands, does Miss Universe. So, with all that vast expanse before her, where does she choose to live? Thailand.

Natalie Glebova, the Canadian beauty who won the title last July, will make the Asian nation her temporary home base while she serves as an ambassador for the beer brewer Singha Corp., a division of the Boon Rawd brewery, maker of Thailand's market-leading Singha beer.

She'll share the PR job with pro golfer Vijay Singh and Thai tennis star Paradon Srichaphan is expected to strike a deal to be the third ambassador. The value of the contracts was not disclosed.

"All I can say is that I can't reveal it because it's the superstar rate," advertising manager Piti Bhirombhakdi told reporters.

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20060509

Flat beer sales bubbling up


For the past several years, sales reports were gloomy in the beer industry worldwide. In general, mass market sales were off. Wine sales, on the other hand, kept improving.

So, with the light of common sense finally shining with blinding brilliance, more beermakers began emulating winemakers' marketing tactics. Just in time, says Nick Lake, beer analyst at the ACNielsen marketing information company and VP of new business development.

The majors had "blended; became the same," he said. "If they didn't have the brand in some ads -- a Budweiser ad, a Miller Lite ad, a Coors ad -- if they didn't have the can in it, it could be any one of the three," said Lake, the company's vice president of new business development.

From fruity malt drinks to organic brews and new, splashier packaging, the marketing prohgrams for beer have grown to resemble wines more and more. And, sales are on an uptick.

A few of the innovations:

• Heineken's keg can for the refrigerator, giving consumers draft beer at home.

• Coors' cooler box with 18-ounce plastic bottles that is ready to be filled with ice and taken on the road.

• Budweiser's sturdy aluminum bottles that are like a cross between a can and a glass bottle. (A number of other companies offer the same container.)

• As I've noted in earlier postings, some of the majors such as Anheuser-Busch have signed deals with foreign brewers to act as their U.S. distribution agents.

• New products from the majors include Anheuser-Busch's Stone Mill Pale Ale and Wild Hop Lager, both certified organic. Peels malt beverage is made with all-natural fruit. A-B's Tilt and B-to-the-E have sweet flavors, caffeine, ginseng and guarana, a Brazilian stimulant.

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