And Molson Coors too. The beer industry needs trustbusting.
By RON KNOX
JULY 09, 2020
https://slate.com/business/2020/07/brea ... -beer.html
To most beer drinkers, small businesses have triumphed. Bars teem with interesting ales and stouts, and retail beer aisles seem as diverse as ever.
But the reality is not what it appears to be. Call it the illusion of choice—or the illusion of competition. Beer drinkers might see plenty of options, but in the multibillion-dollar beer industry, Big Beer companies, and distributors that are beholden to their power, use an unseen network of influence to restrain new, independent brewers and recapture profits that were lost in the craft boom.
Today, two powerful brewers continue to dominate the American beer market. Combined, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors (called MillerCoors until this year) sell around 65 percent of all beer in the U.S. That’s about as powerful a duopoly as exists in American industry—but it’s still less than what it was 15 years ago, when 80 percent of the industry sat in the hands of the two big brewers. Myriad factors contributed to the duopoly’s slump, perhaps in particular the rise of independent craft breweries, which now account for around 12 percent of the industry.
Despite the popularity of craft beer, the two global beer titans have managed to maintain their grip on the industry largely by influencing how beer is distributed and what is found on store shelves. Almost 90 percent of beer sold in most places in America is handled by distributors whose primary customer is one of the two big brewers, giving AB InBev and Molson Coors outsize control over which beers appear on bar taps and in retail coolers. Meanwhile, the two companies have purchased about 20 smaller “craft” beer brands—brands that then fill taps and shelves where independent brews might otherwise appear.