Budweiser firm hails world cup success

STELLA Artois and Budweiser brewing giant AB InBev today toasted a World Cup boost from thirsty football fans as UK beer volumes rose by almost a fifth between April and June.

The group, which also sells beers including Beck's, Bass and Boddingtons, said volumes jumped 18.6% in the quarter and 11.4% over the first half, outstripping other European markets.

Budweiser was the official beer of the South African tournament and UK volumes rose more than 70% against the first half of 2009, the company added.

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AB InBev also benefited from local World Cup sponsorship deals for several of its other brands including Brahma in Brazil, and Jupiler in Holland and Belgium.

UK president Stuart Macfarlane said the UK had delivered "a fantastic result, even more so in this challenging environment" as better weather and a promotional campaign also increased demand.

The brewer launched Budweiser across Russia in May - the world's fourth largest beer market - and hopes to use the football tournament as a platform for moves into other markets.

"The increased consumer interest and engagement with the Budweiser brand initiated by the World Cup provides an early indication of the brand's global potential," the firm added.

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The strong UK showing contrasted with a more sluggish 2.6% rise in own-beer volumes across Western Europe during the second quarter due to much tougher conditions in German and Belgian markets.

First half volumes fell 9.8% in Germany as the group came under heavy competition pressure, while the firm was also hit with strikes in its home Belgian market.

Across the group as a whole - formed by a mega-merger in 2008 between InBev and Anheuser-Busch to create the world's largest brewer - organic revenues rose 4.1% to 9.2 billion US dollars (5.8 billion). Underlying earnings were up 5.6% to 3.4 billion dollars (2.2 billion).

The group has UK breweries at sites including Magor in South Wales, Wellpark in Glasgow and Samlesbury near Preston.

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