Cinco de Mayo was celebrated last week and though the numbers for the weekend have yet to be released, the industry expects to see the continued success of Corona, Modelo, Dos Equis, and other Mexican beers. This growth did not happen overnight. It took these brands many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to become major selling volume beers in the U.S.
Other imported beers have tried to penetrate the U.S. market, and while some have created a nice business, most have been unsuccessful. Those that were not as profitable have either left the country or have maintained a small, yet viable business concentrating on the CDI/BDI indexes where they have a fair chance to create volume.
On the other hand, American crafts that have attempted to launch markets overseas have also struggled to establish themselves as viable companies. Some brands have been successful, and some, like Stone, have not flourished and consequently have left Germany.
With the exception of the Modelo brands, no other imported brand has become a disrupter in the U.S. market. To date, other imports lacked the knowledge, resources, and/or the desire to build their brands. That, however, may soon change.
In a major announcement last week, Lion published that Simon Thorpe, the former CEO of Pabst, has been named CEO of Lion for their U.S. market. Kirin, which owns Lion, is also the owner of a number of Australian and New Zeeland breweries and beverages, some of which have been imported into the U.S. The company brings with it years of leadership experience in operating U.S. companies. Other major American investments made by Kirin include Coke a Cola bottling of Northern New England and the partial ownership of Brooklyn Brewery and Four Roses Distillery.
With more than 7,000 employees, Lion could easily be considered a disrupter. The question going forward is will Lion be the disrupter or will Lion become more like Sapporo. This brewery moved into North America with their purchase of Sleeman in Canada and have since purchased Anchor in San Francisco. Sapporo has a major presence in both the U.S. and Canadian markets, but has yet to move the needle in either. The reason could be that Sapporo is taking the long road and not pushing for immediate results.
Lion could well employ the same strategy, but with Simon as CEO, coupled and the current beer environment in the U.S., Lion’s timing puts them in the perfect position to play the disrupter.
No doubt that Lion has the key parts to become a disrupter: resources; leadership; partnerships; investments in the U.S.; and worldwide success. The industry will know Lion’s ultimate goals by the end of 2020 and they could be interesting.
This is the age of disruption.