AB InBev sees Africa as two-way street for boosting beer brands
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV will export African beer brands to its markets around the world as the Budweiser maker seeks to maximize the potential of a continent that was key to its decision to buy rival SABMiller for $103bn.
“There are so many very unique African brands and I think it is time to sell African beers to the greater market,” said Ricardo Tadeu, a 40-year-old Brazilian who moved from Mexico to head up AB InBev’s African operations. “There is huge potential for these brands to be exported.”
The world’s biggest brewer plans to sell packs of eight African beer brands outside the continent, including Castle, the dominant brand in South Africa, Kilimanjaro of Tanzania and Nigeria’s Hero. At the same time, the company will introduce global beer brands such as Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona in African markets, Tadeu said in an interview at AB InBev’s Johannesburg office on Wednesday.
Tadeu is responsible for spurring growth on a continent where AB InBev didn’t have a foothold before completing the purchase of SABMiller in September. About 65 million people are due to reach the legal drinking age by 2023, creating an opportunity for brewers, although Tadeu must also tackle slowing economic growth across some of the biggest markets. South Africa, where SABMiller first set up shop in 1895, expanded 0.3% in 2016, the slowest pace since 2009, while Nigeria is in recession after the collapse in oil prices hurt its biggest source of revenue.
Since taking over from SABMiller’s Mark Bowman, Tadeu has traveled extensively across the continent, often in the private jet used by his predecessor, and said he now drinks African beer brands by choice. Castle, in particular, has a “great opportunity” to become more global, he said.
Within the next 12 months, AB InBev plans to invest between $150m and $200m on two new production lines in South Africa. The company agreed to create a R1bn ($73m) fund to support the local beer industry and protect jobs to win government approval for the SABMiller deal, one of many concessions it made around the world to secure the takeover.
In Nigeria, AB InBev could spend as much as $400m to build a new plant, the executive said, although the brewery will not follow Heineken NV, the world’s third-largest brewer, into other West African countries such as Ivory Coast and Congo.
“We are prioritizing what we need to do in Africa, rather than trying to find new things,” Tadeu said.