There was a bit of a bar fight in western Europe this week after Saint Louis-based brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev announced they were cutting 800 jobs-- about 10 percent of their workforce there. Laid-off workers in Belgium have barricaded the doors to their breweries and won't let other employees come to work. The result will likely be--no god no!--a country wide beer shortage if the dispute isn't settled soon. That's bad news for Belgian brewhouse InBev, which has stumbled quite a bit since acquiring the formerly American-owned company last year.
After taking out newspaper ads saying it wouldn't cut any more jobs than necessary in the recession, the company slashed 1,400 American jobs at the end of 2008-- about six percent of the work force here. That lost them some brand loyalty, something they can't afford with MillerCoors, the consolidated front of the country's second and third place brewers- gaining fast.
Meanwhile, MillerCoors has launched a series of mini-innovations, being ahead on everything from cold aluminum cans to easy-chug vented mouth lids, to cold-activated packaging. Bud's recent design fixes went flat. Turns out, their recent college-colored "fan cans" might actually encourage underage drinking and have been banned from some campuses. Perhaps it's a good thing that euro-execs might face an employee-enforced dry spell. These days the so-called King of Beers is acting more like a boardroom jester.