LONDON Aug 6 Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB
InBev), known for its mass market Budweiser beer, is creating a
new business unit in the United States devoted to premium beers
as it tries to improve its presence in a fast-growing segment of
the beer market.
With young drinkers increasingly interested in spirits and
other drinks, the U.S. beer market shrank 1.9 percent in 2013 to
196.2 million barrels, according to the Brewers Association
trade group. Yet "craft" beers, or those made by small,
independent brewers, rose 17.2 percent.
The new unit, which will include AB InBev brands such as
Goose Island and Blue Point, will be based in Chicago, which
places it "in closer touch with urban consumers, their way of
thinking, lifestyle and the accounts they visit," said an
internal announcement made on Wednesday and seen by Reuters.
It will be led by Felipe Szpigel, who joined the brewer 15
years ago as a global management trainee.
AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, is not alone in trying
to accelerate sales of beers that are more profitable and appeal
to more discerning drinkers.
MillerCoors, the combined US operations of SABMiller
and Molson Coors, has a unit called Tenth and Blake,
which promotes its premium beers Blue Moon, Jacob Leinenkugel
and Blitz-Weinhard and its Crispin and Fox Barrel ciders.
Mainstream lagers such as Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller
Lite have lost ground in recent years, hit by a wave of more
upmarket, more flavourful drinks such as ales, stouts and wheat
AB InBev's new unit should boost sales of its higher-end
beers since it includes dedicated marketing and sales staff, as
well as staff for supply and finance functions.
Another internal message announced the departure of Bud
Light vice president, Rob McCarthy. McCarthy will be replaced by
News of the internal moves was first reported by trade
publication Beer Business Daily.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Louise Heavens and