SEPT. 19, 2015 — If the proposed merger of the world’s two largest beer makers actually goes through, U.S. beer lovers who appreciate quality, creativity, flavor and choice just might want to raise their glasses to it.
U.K. takeover rules give global No. 1 Anheuser-Busch InBev until Oct. 14 to make a formal offer for London-based No. 2 SABMiller. It’s a merger idea motivated by the same market trends that drove the economies-of-scale consolidation that produced these two industrial-scale beer giants.
As Bloomberg View columnist Justin Fox notes, U.S. per-capita beer consumption has been falling for decades while wine and spirits gain. And as The Economist says, U.S. craft brewers’ “volumes jumped by 18 percent last year even as total beer sales stayed level.” In other words, ever more Americans, increasingly favoring smaller brewers’ more palate-pleasing products, are rejecting such mass-produced, mass-market brands as Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Budweiser and SABMiller’s Miller.
The merger proposal raises obvious antitrust concerns. But if the Justice Department allows it, the resulting, cost-cutting “beerhemoth” would keep turning out those comparatively bland and unenticing “macrobrews” while doubling down on the quantity-over-quality approach that’s gone flat in the market.
And that would help already thriving craft brews stand out even more, gain even more market share and offer even more diverse beer styles — which is for what America’s beer drinkers are thirsty.