AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said retailers only have so much shelf space to spare for craft beer

AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said retailers only have so much shelf space to spare for craft beer

Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito has suggested that the US explosion in craft beer brands may be nearing an end, saying that consumers "get a bit tired of choice".

Brito, whose company has corralled a selection of leading craft brewers into its distribution network, also said retailers have realised they they cannot keep pace with the continued enlargement of the craft beer category. "There's only so much shelf space that you can share and cold box that you can spilt," Brito said.

The AB InBev head was responding to an analysts' question after third-quarter results last week. Asked if craft beer had reached an inflection point as previously strong sales growth started to slow, Brito said it was "too early to call". 

However, he said craft beer's increased "assortment" in the number of brands available was reaching a ceiling. 

"Our customers are thinking, 'how much more of an assortment can you carry?'" Brito said. Turning to consumers, Brito said they were "a bit tired of choice and go for fewer brands".

AB InBev's battle to save craft beer from the tyranny of choice - Comment

AB InBev has in the past been accused of trying to limited the number of craft beer brands available to consumers through its US distribution clout in the US. In June, ahead of AB InBev's just-completed takeover of SABMiller, Brewers Association head Bob Pease said the US$103bn deal risked stifling consumer choice as AB InBev gains greater control over distribution. Pease said the company was increasingly buying up independent distributors and if left unchecked could use its size to shut out smaller brands.

In last week's Q3 results, AB InBev was hit by a tough quarter in Brazil. According to Brito, it was the most difficult period in Brazil for a decade. But the CEO said the brewer continued to be bullish on the country as economic indicators appeared bright.

"We're seeing consumer confidence beginning to rebound, we see that inflation is coming down, we see that currency is in a better place and we see that the political environment is more stable," Brito said. "More importantly than that, our confidence remains intact."