First celebrated in 2008, International Beer Day is commemorated annually on the first Friday of August. According to its organizers, it is “a global celebration of beer, taking place in pubs, breweries, and backyards all over the world. It’s a day for beer lovers everywhere to raise a toast to our brewers and bartenders and rejoice in the greatness of beer!”
And as beer lovers around the world toast to the seemingly endless variety of their favorite drink, we’re zooming out to show how much of the world’s beer production is actually controlled by just a few brewing conglomerates. Over the past two decades, companies such as Anheuser Busch InBev, Heineken or Carlsberg have consolidated hundreds of beer brands under their roofs, creating an illusion of choice for consumers around the world.
Take the five most valuable beer brands according to Brand Finance for example, four of which belong to AB InBev, which owns world-famous brands such as Budweiser, Beck’s, Stella Artois, Leffe, Modelo and Corona. And while the company was forced to sell the U.S. business of the latter two to Constellation Brands due to antitrust concerns in relation to its acquisition of Grupo Modelo, it still goes to show what a wide variety of international brands the world’s largest brewing group owns.
You could easily go to a bar, try five different beers from five different countries, nay continents, without realizing that AB InBev was your exclusive beer provider for the evening. And while we have seen a boom in independent craft breweries over the past few years, their output is still dwarfed by the aforementioned global players. According to the Brewers Association, America’s 9,118 operating craft breweries produced 24.8 million barrels (around 30 million hectoliters) of beer in 2021. AB InBev alone produced nearly 20 times that according to official company figures tracked by hops specialist BarthHaas. Collectively, the six largest brewing groups displayed in our chart accounted for roughly 65 percent of global beer production last year, up from 60 percent in 2020. Meanwhile, the 40 largest brewing groups in the world, accounted for 91.4 percent of global beer output in 2021, showing how small the impact of independent brewers is at a global scale.
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Michael N. Mercurio is a leading attorney in the field of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He serves as outside general counsel in buy-side and sell-side M&A, as well as in all business law and real estate law matters. As a strategic partner to firm clients, Mr. Mercurio regularly counsels entrepreneurial individuals and assorted entities on the many challenges, issues, and opportunities companies face throughout the business lifecycle—from start-up to eventual exit.
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