AmBev is wary of attacks on the premium beer sector

AmBev is wary of attacks on the premium beer sector

AmBev has upped its focus on premium beer in Brazil to stave of Heineken's “smart game” ahead of the World Cup and Olympics, according to research group Mintel. 

The Brazilian brewer is the main player in Brazil's value market, but is wary of gaps that could be exploited by smaller players, according to Sebastian Concha, Mintel's director of research in Latin America. AmBev, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, has brought in Stella Artois and Budweiser “to protect itself from other incomers, such as Heineken,” Concha told just-drinks yesterday (8 January).

“AmBev's brands cover most of the value market, but there's always a gap where a competitor like Kirin or Heineken could come in,” Concha said. “Heineken is playing a very smart game in setting itself up as a premium product.”

Domestic lager brands make up about 90% of the Brazilian beer market, but growth in international brands are set to continue over the decade, Concha said. And with the World Cup set for Brazil in 2014 and Rio to host the 2016 Olympics, the country's brewers are jostling for market share.

“They are already thinking about the events and particularly about the World Cup,” Concha said. “It's about how they increase sales for the period, but more importantly how they position themselves locally and internationally.”

One group unlikely to get a look in during the sports tournaments is Brazil's fledgling craft beer sector.

“The top three brewers make up 90% of the market, which makes it difficult for smaller craft breweries to come through like they have done in Argentina, Chile and a little bit in Mexico,” Concha said. “And big events benefit big players because they are great platforms to speak to broad audiences.”

In November, AmBev, overtook Brazil's state-run oil company to be the country's most valuable company by market value.