As you know, the craft beer market has exploded in popularity and size in recent years. Consumers see this as a bonus as variety increases greatly. However, industry giants in commercial brewing see this recent expansion of craft beer market as a reduction in their respective share of the market. In fact, in 2013, craft beer was 14 percent of total beer market share. In turn, major commercial brewing operations are seeking to take over the craft brewing industry through acquisition of craft breweries.
To start, it helps to know the major players in the game. The two largest commercial brewing operations in the U.S. are Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) and MillerCoors.
AB InBev’s brand portfolio includes Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, and Skol.
MillerCoors has an even more impressive diversity of beers in its portfolio. The brewing giant owns domestic brands such as Miller, Coors, Extra Gold, Hamm’s, Icehouse, Keystone, Milwaukee’s Best, Olde English 800, Steel Reserve High Gravity, and Mickey’s. MillerCoors also owns international beers such as Cristal, Cusqueña, Grolsch, Peroni, Pilsener Urquell, Molson, Foster’s, and George Killian’s Irish Red to name a few.
As you can see, acquiring existing breweries is not a new concept to these two beverage conglomerates. However, they have historically been in the business of buying large domestic and international brands. As of late, they’ve been on a craft brewery shopping-spree of sorts.
In the last four years, MillerCoors has bought craft brands such as Blue Moon, Colorado Native, Crispin Hard Ciders, Leinenkugel’s, and Henry Weinhard’s.
AB InBev has not been as aggressive as MillerCoors but has still acquired a handful of brands in the last few years. The acquisitions include big names such as Goose Island from Chicago; Elysian from Seattle; 10 Barrel Brewing from Bend, Ore.; and Blue Point Brewing Co. from Long Island.
Purchases of craft breweries in recent years show a clear trend in the beer market. Craft beer is being commercialized. There are a number of problems with this trend.
Perhaps the largest concern for the consumer is that the recipes are being changed to increase the profit margin on each brand. They’re doing everything they can to cut costs while supposedly keeping the flavor the same. I personally doubt their ability to improve these beers in any tangible way to the consumer.
So be careful next time you pick a craft beer when you to the liquor store, it may not be what you think it is. Be wary of commercially produced impostors.