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Don’t Be “Surprised” If AB Buys a Few More Craft Brewers, Luiz Tells WSJ; “We Are Late to the Game”

AB sure has been in news lots lately, including over holiday period with long interesting articles in Wall St Jnl this morn and St Lou Biz Jnl (Friday - see below). “Beer Giants Cultivate Their Crafty Side,” headlined WSJ in article that opened with ABI board and ceo Brito peeling and slicing oranges to put in wine barrels and make Goose Island’s Sofie earlier this yr. World’s largest brewer held its annual board meeting there at Goose Island, “a small brewery” in Chi. “The reason,” sez WSJ, is that “small labels” are where there’s growth in beer biz. And not just in beer. “When it comes to what Americans eat and drink, small brands are big,” said WSJ. “It took us more time than it should to recognize the trends,” said ABI North American prexy Luiz Edmond. “We are late to the game.” So “you shouldn’t be surprised,” he told WSJ, if ABI “buys a few more craft brewers,” it wrote.

Goose Island “expects sales to top 400,000 barrels this year,” said WSJ. Including Blue Point and Ten Barrel, AB will have about ½ mil bbls in this segment. Goose Island alone has 30 different brands now, up from 19 in 2011. But “competition gets fiercer by the month.” There are 90 breweries in Illinois today, almost double the 52 five yrs ago, Ill Craft Brewers Guild told Jnl. Of those, 76 are in Chicago; 20 more are on the way.


Solid Holiday Craft Pricing Across US: Coupla Good Deals, Minor Shifts

Snapshots of holiday pricing around US thru week of Christmas showed similar range of deals based on geography as in past, but by and large pretty healthy craft pricing. While anecdotal reports indicate a few dollar-a-bottle craft discounts, only a couple of $6.99 6-pks turned up in our spot-checks. Stronger pricing on East Coast still holding true for most part, with plenty of craft twelvers priced at $14-15 in MA and NY while some brands going for $12.99 and $11.99 on West Coast. Binny’s in Chicago has some CBA 12-pks at $10.99 this week. Same store has most of its craft 6-pks at $7.99 or $8.99, similar elsewhere. But coupla specialty brands command some pretty high prices for sixers, like Great Lakes Christmas for $12.99 at Binny’s and $11.99 in Akron Giant Eagle.

Angry Orchard showed up on weekly price-checks at over half of outlets we checked. And almost across the board, retailers kept it $13.99. A Buffalo Tops has the hot cider brand at $14.99, right on par with most of its other above-premium brands, including Redds and Mike’s Hard, Stella and Guinness, plus Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Magic Hat, Blue Moon and local Southern Tier. Not too many stores discounting or aggressively pricing up local craft either, though Seattle Albertsons promoting ’em more than other stores we checked.

Comparing to last year’s prices: some up, some down, some steady. Mainstream brands in Mass, Tex, Colo and Calif all up 50-cents to a buck, but down on Long Island, NY and in San Diego. Same goes for difference in Sam Adams prices: up in Mass, down in NY. Lotsa shifting in brands priced at $12.99 vs $13.99 on West Coast, with most locations pushing imports hard. While some big craft brands priced on par with imports, a handful of smaller (but still sizeable) nearby players getting better pricing in San Fran.