Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Budweiser Goes Foreign

Now that the Anheuser Busch company is no longer an American company, perhaps some state lawmakers will be taking a very close look at the beer distribution system in New York. The system, set up after the repeal of prohibition, is designed to protect the interests of local businesses. This is certainly not the case in NYC where Anheuser-now InterBev-directly controls over 60% of the beer wholesaling for its flagship Bud brand.

What this means is that a foreign entity, with no ties with, or concerns for, local businesses sets the parameters for beer marketing-and this is being done at the expense of local independent wholesalers who are being discriminated against by the brewer/wholesaler. This is precisely why the independents are supporting legislation (A10216; and S6752) that would protect local wholesalers against price fixing and discrimination.

The sale of Anheuser is rightfully upsetting to New York's hard core beer drinkers. As the NY Times reported yesterday: "John Dooley sidled up to the bar at his favorite neighborhood pub on Monday afternoon and, like a cuckolded lover, vowed to remain true to his beloved despite the sudden betrayal he felt. “It’s the best beer in the world,” said Mr. Dooley, draining his second glass of Budweiser at Kennedy’s pub and restaurant in Breezy Point, Queens. “If you wanted to buy me a Heineken, I’d refuse. Nothing short of a nuclear war could make me stop.”

Mr Dooley's sentiments ring true to the independent, wholesalers that made Budweiser No.1 when it first came into the NYC market many years ago: "And so it was with bitterness, and resignation, that many Breezy Point locals met the news on Monday that Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis-based maker of Budweiser, was to be sold to a Belgian company for $52 billion. “I don’t like it, I don’t like it a bit,” Mr. Dooley said. Then he raised his empty glass, which the bartender, Tom Coady, promptly refilled. "

Some of the legislative opponents of the bills based their misguided opposition to the legislation on the importance of preserving local business, and some kind of theoretical support for the "three tier system." When foreign-owned brewers are directly distributing, however, the distribution system is in a shambles; which makes the legislation proposed that much more compelling.