BMG Bank President Ricardo Guimarães is an entrepreneur and a beer lover and he thinks small, local breweries in the United States offer consumers a better product. That’s the way Guimarães conducts his business in Brazil. His small, family owned bank took on the big banks they compete with in the payroll loan industry, and his bank came out on top. Ricardo’s plan to sponsor soccer clubs had a huge impact on soccer fans, and when it came time for them to apply for a loan fans called a BMG Bank agent. Guimarães did something the other banks overlooked. He gave consumers what they wanted, which was low-interest loans with good terms. Ricardo thinks craft breweries in the United States do the same thing.
When Guimarães learned that Anheuser-Bush introduced a new incentive plan to distributors, he immediately checked out the plan. AB InBev is offering distributors a marketing and retail display reimbursement if the distributor promotes an AB InBev craft beer instead of a local craft beer. That reimbursement could be worth more than $200,000 to some distributors, and Guimarães thinks that’s not good business.
Market access is an ongoing battle and craft brewers have infiltrated the retail market by brewing beer that has a distinctive quality and taste. The big breweries have a hard time producing that taste. If the AB InBev incentive plan continues, Anheuser-Bush will be able to control materials needed to make beer like bottles, cans, malted barley and hops as well as packaging. Hops production is already at a premium because hops plants take three years to mature, according to Mr. Guimarães.
The Department of Justice is looking into the AB InBev incentive plan. The losers, if the DOJ allows the plan to continue, will be consumers, according to Guimarães. If Anheuser-Bush controls what distributors promote, small breweries will go out of business and consumers will have fewer choices. The plan may make sense to Anheuser-Bush investors, but the plan is flawed when things like fair competition is considered.
The AB InBev plan has only been accepted by one distributor in the St. Louis area, and that makes sense since St. Louis is the home of Anheuser-Bush. Distributors in other cities haven’t accepted the plan. Some distributors say they won’t consider it, and others are waiting for a ruling by the Department of Justice.