Budweiser Shortage Latest Hiccup for InBev's Anheuser-Busch

Budweiser

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.

[Via BizJournals, Image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabiovenni/ / CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

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2 Comments

  • Chris Reich

    In my younger years, Bud was not only the King of Beers but the domain reached to my college-age liver as well.

    I often post about what I call flagship companies. These are high profile, world admired, made in America giants. I counted Budweiser among the flagships until the company sold out to InBev.

    There are, to be sure, great foreign run companies operating in the U.S. NOKIA comes to mind along with Volkswagon and SIEMENS. But these companies STARTED in their native countries and their cores, or corporate cultures as we say, are rooted in the home country.

    A French firm, could buy up a nail manufacturing plant in Iowa and it probably wouldn't make too much difference. But if the French bought McDonald's and replaced chicken McNuggets with chicken pate, do you think there might be riots in the streets? Would the consumer accept a Pierre Grande in lieu of a Big Mac?

    I have worked for companies taken over by foreign buyers and the employees grumble about changes in forms or little procedures or the general tightening of the belt. The consumer probably won't even notice a difference most of the time.

    But this Bud situation is a totally different case. A foreign company bought an iconic American businesses. A Flagship.

    Foreign management has no idea how inculcated culture is to the product. The example cited of changing the can colors to college colored "fan cans" violates the very creed of this venerated product. Ya just don't do things like that. That would work, and work well, in a rabid soccer country but not here. Foreign management does not understand our quirky loyalties.

    When Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler, I knew the company would fail. Remember Dieter trying to convince us that Chrysler comes from the same litter as Mercedes? I have a Chrysler Sebring that has cost more in repairs than we paid for the damn car. It's of the Daimler-Benz vintage too. Where's the German engineering? Throughout the car which is why the catalytic converter literally fell off. The attachment was over engineered instead of just welded to the damn frame. Mostly people didn't like Dieter selling them "our" cars. Non-Yankee go home!

    There are companies around the globe ripe for acquisition. Before buying up a company, management needs to evaluate the potential blowback from foreigners tinkering with successful tradition. Leave the high profile trademarks on the table.

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com