Thanks to a portfolio of products that expanded often in 2007, Anheuser-Busch Inc. reported U.S. shipments to wholesalers of 104.4 million barrels in 2007, up 2.1 million barrels over 2006.
A-B, the largest U.S.-based brewer, says the 2 percent increase was due to the success of its broader beer portfolio, including the addition of InBev European brands.
A press release from the company quotes A-B President and Chief Executive Officer August A. Busch IV as saying, "Our expanded beer portfolio along with our enhanced marketing and sales strategies to accelerate core beer sales position Anheuser-Busch for growth in volume and earnings in 2008."
Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that with all of the moves made by A-B that its sales totals did not increase more. The deal with InBev to handle sales of Stella Artois, Beck's, Bass Ale, Hoegaarden and Leffe in the U.S. at the end of 2006 appears from the release to have supplied the lion's share of growth for A-B. It may be that the company has found the limit to what it can expect in beer sales from core brands like Budweiser. The growth in craft beer sales and the aging U.S. population is working against these mass market beers, another reason why A-B is buying shares and signing distribution rights with craft brewers like Goose Island Brewing.
The just released numbers show the bottom is not dropping out of A-B's business, but it is increasingly plugging the holes in its growler with new brands that appeal to niche consumers. You have to wonder if A-B did not have Wall Street analysts to deal with if they would bother with launching regional specialty beers or signing import agreements? However, because A-B must face those quarterly conference calls they have become increasingly supportive of the craft segment.
In an odd sort of way the need to get larger has forced A-B to think smaller.