With all eyes on “Megabrew”, the AB-InBev meets SABMiller merger that has been rolling through various regulatory bodies over the last 12 months, Asahi are quietly upgrading from a regional power to a global force. Helping free them from a stagnant Japanese market in order to position themselves with a diverse global portfolio.
There are some regulatory hurdles still for Megabrew to go through. And there was an issue with compensation and recalculation as a result of Brexit whacking the British economy, but under the assumption the big-wigs manage to rig a shareholder vig, one of the flow on effects will be brands Peroni, Grolsch, and Meantime will all be passed over to Asahi.
Both Peroni and Grolsch are second in their respective countries in sales, behind Heineken; and both have a significant international presence and brand recognition. They inhabit that second tier in the “hey I’m at corporate party or a cocktail bar and I want something fancy and Euro” space. Meantime are by no means in that same realm, but instead are one of those craft breweries that everyone enjoys and usually illicit a “yes, the IPA is a very good example of an English IPA” from drinkers.
While those three pieces in isolation are barely a drop in the glass, when you add up the many arms of Asahi, what’s emerging is a company ready to pounce on markets that may be wary of Megabrew. They currently have plans for a $3.7billion push into the US, part of which will be acquisitions. They have also recently been connected to some medium size craft breweries here in Australia and NZ. While both 4 Pines and the Rocks Brewing Company have been named, both have publicly stated they are not selling. Rumours in NZ still swirl but nothing has been confirmed or denied publicly. However, where there is smoke…
Aside from the beer world, focussing on non-alcholic brands in Japan has led them to beat (an admittedly downgraded) forecast by 44% for the first half of this year. While their non-alcoholic division down under includes Schweppes (Aus), Charlie’s (NZ) and Phoenix (NZ). They also own Nikka whisky, which has a number of processing and bottling facilities in Japan, as well as ownership of Ben Nevis in Scotland. Nikka are currently riding the wave of demand for Japanese whisky.
Their beer portfolio (including speculated acquisitions) looks like this:
- Tsingtao (second largest shareholder)
- Cricketers Arms
- Mountain Goat
- Independent Breweries NZ (Boundary Rd and Founders Brewery)
- Unnamed Australian player
- Unnamed NZ Player
When you look at the portfolio, it’s a picture of hitting every market segment. From “faux” craft (for lack of a better term) to beloved brands in the form of Meantime and Mountain Goat. Then right up to export lagers. With more acquisitions on the horizon, it is going to be very interesting to see how Asahi looks in the coming years. Admittedly they are still a way behind the top three, soon to become two (AB-InBev, SABMiller, and Heineken) but future moves may have significant impacts on the industry. Between them and Kirin, who own Lion (James Squire, Little Creatures and more), the machinations of Japanese companies could have just as much impact on craft beer in Australia as Megabrew.