When the G. Heileman Brewing Co. was riding its crest of success, their business model was simple. Heileman’s portfolio was predominantly regional brands which the company expanded nationally. They assigned various brands in in the market to different wholesalers, therefore, if a market had four wholesalers, all four might have a Heileman brand. The wholesalers would all compete against each other.
Naturally, over time, wholesalers lobbied their respective state legislatures and got this changed to allow a brewery’s brands to be offered to only one wholesaler. There was a grandfather clause protecting wholesalers currently doing business, but going forward, there would be no more competing against one’s own brewer. This worked well for Heileman until the brewer collapsed under its own heavy debt, which it incurred through a series of changing owners. The industry has not seen any business model like Heileman’s since the 1980s.
The current market is seeing some uniquely changing business models today. ABI, in their desire to acquire Modelo, agreed to sell the rights of the Modelo brands to Constellation Brands. This satisfied the DOJ’s concerns that AB could have more control over the US beer market. ABI did sell the US market, and did acquire Modelo for the rest of the world. All is good, right?
Even prior to buying Modelo, AB has, for years, been attempting to find a way to slow Corona’s growth and steal some of their market share. AB first tried to develop their own Mexican labels, however, this proved to be unsuccessful. In recent years, AB has started to import other Mexican beers with some success, including Estrella Jalisco and Montejo. AB also has Presidente from the Dominican Republic, and Oculto, a beer with a hint of tequila. All of these brands are aimed at Modelo.
Not even AB could have anticipated the success that Constellation brands have had since becoming an owner versus an importer. It is safe to assume that much of the volume loss experienced by AB has shifted to Constellation.
Now, however, it seems the shoe is on the other foot. After years of AB’s attempts to stop Corona, Constellation brands will be soon introducing Corona Premier, a brand designed to compete against AB’s powerhouse, Michelob Ultra. Did AB see this coming?
The shift continues as Modelo brands are now taking over the lead sponsorship in such sporting venues as the Chicago White Sox. These venues, long tied to AB or MolsonCoors, are looking at Modelo brands as their demographics are changing. Did AB see this coming?
Even as this blog is being posted, Modelo is taking AB’s place as set-captains in a number of major chains. Retailers can read their own scan data along with SIRI and others to see the consumer continues to move to higher priced premiums, and especially the Modelo brands. Did AB see this coming?
Modelo continues to expand their own product line, now with Corona, Corona Light, Corona Premier, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, Pacficio and others. Did AB see this coming?
In the beer industry, nothing ever stays the same as the industry leadership is rapidly moving from AB to Constellation brands.
If you want to change things, it requires bravery….