Regulators Probing AB InBev Over Allegations Of Pushing Out Craft Brewers By Buying Distributors

Image courtesy of (.sanden.)

Despite Anheuser-Busch InBev’s attempt in recent years to get drunk on craft beer by padding its portfolio with small brewers like Golden Road, Goose Island and Blue Point Brewery, among others, the beverage behemoth is in talks with federal regulators over allegations that its recent purchase of distributors is a calculated attempt to shut the door on increasingly popular craft brews. 

Reuters reports that the Justice Department, along with California regulators, are investigating allegations by craft brewers that AB InBev pushes its recently acquired distributors to sever ties with the smaller beer companies.

AB InBev confirmed it was in talks with regulators about its recent purchase of five distributors in California, New York, and Colorado.

“Anheuser-Busch has been in communication with the Department of Justice and California attorney general’s office about the transactions. We are working cooperatively to address any questions they have,” an Anheuser-Busch spokesperson said.

Sources close to the matter say the investigation, which is in early stages, was initiated after smaller brewers raised concerns that AB InBev’s purchase of distributors made it more difficult for them to distribute their brews, leading to stalling sales.

The CEO of one Oregon craft brewer tells Reuters that after AB InBev purchased two of its distributors in 2011 and 2012, the company saw what it viewed as “healthy sales” falter before finding a new outlet.

“Our feeling was that we weren’t getting the same level of representation,” he said. “We saw our trends drop and we have seen improvements since we’ve switched.”

The Justice Department declined comment. The attorney generals’ offices for California, New York and Colorado did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Exclusive: U.S. probes allegations AB InBev seeking to curb craft beer distribution [Reuters]