Ricardo Guimarães is an entrepreneur and investor that cares about the people that support his products. Guimarães has turned his family owned bank, the BMG Bank, into one of the most profitable small banks in the country. BMG Bank offers consumers a product called payroll loans, and the bank advertises that product by sponsoring soccer clubs and tennis players. Mr. Guimarães believes in fair competition, and he is strongly opposed to any business practice that resembles a payoff.
The AB InBev incentive plan does resemble a payoff scheme, according to the small craft breweries that are beginning to feel the impact of the plan. The United States Department of Justice was notified by a few craft breweries, and agents are in the process of examining the plan. What AB InBev is offering is a retail display and marketing reimbursement to distributors that push AB InBev craft brands.
Anheuser-Bush has acquired several craft brands over the last six years, and the company wants distributors to promote them instead of independent craft brands. Distributors that accept the plan can receive more than $200,000 a year from Anheuser-Bush.
One reason for the plan, according to Ricardo Guimarães and other industry experts, is Anheuser-Bush is losing market share to craft beers that are brewed in states around the country. Another reason is foreign breweries are buying small craft breweries and injecting money into those brands.
The result is Anheuser-Bush has lost almost 4.9 percent of its market share over the last two years. That doesn’t sound like much, but in terms of dollars, it is. Guimarães thinks young beer drinkers don’t want to drink Budweiser or Bud-Lite anymore. Bud was their parents’ beer. They want a beer they can call their own. Even though AB InBev offers several craft beers in their product line-up, young consumers associate them with big business, and millenniums are sick of big business bullying.
The AB InBev incentive plan may sound like a smart business move to AB investors, but it could be a decision that haunts them if the DOJ rules against the plan. Beer lovers want to drink a beer from a brewery that plays fair, and Anheuser-Bush may not fit that description.