Consolidation in the beer industry may push true micro-brews off the market.
More and more beer drinkers are looking for the latest craft beers from local or regional micro-breweries. But with a potential merger of two of the world’s mega-brewers, consumers may find that the “micro-brews” they can find are actually brands owned by the major producers.
The world’s two largest breweries, Anheuser Busch InBev (AB InBev) and SABMiller, have been in merger talks and experts believe a consolidation is inevitable, according to Fortune. Some say the merger will have little effect on microbreweries, since they tend to compete for a specialty beer drinker, and not for the mass market consumer served by the bigger players.
But others see challenges ahead for microbreweries. The major companies will exert massive influence in the crucial beer distribution networks, taking space currently available for smaller brands.
Since the bigger brands are also buying many smaller craft makers, they can use their market muscle to insist on shelf space and tap handles, leaving little room for independent microbrews. Customers may believe they are drinking beer from craft brewers, with no way of knowing that the ales are actually mega-brewed products.
Further, even after a merger, the combined AB InBev/SABMiller company is expected to have plenty of cash, meaning the company will likely continue its acquisitions of popular craft breweries.