Inbev cans its product launches

10 April, 2009

Recession prompts review into brewing giant's portfolio

The recession has forced Inbev to shelve a raft of new product launches and review the future of its existing brands.

Planned brand extensions to Beck's and Budweiser have been put on ice by the brewer, amid fears that cash-strapped consumers are being more conservative in their choices and may be less willing to chance buying something new.

Inbev UK & Ireland president Stuart MacFarlane said: "We got lucky with Beck's Vier - it does what it says on the tin. But we don't want to take a risk. Is the market ready for innovation? We don't think it's right to innovate now.

"We have had mixed reactions from retailers about innovation - Andy Bond at Asda said the focus was on value and getting back to basics, yet another customer said innovation was still important, so we need to be balanced.

"You get one chance to launch a piece of innovation and you need to give yourself the best chance in the right conditions. Consumers are nervous, they are retreating back to what they know - big brands. But when the time is right, our innovation pipeline will be

chocker."

At the same time as scaling back on innovation, the company said it was considering

the disposal of some brands in its portfolio.

MacFarlane

said: "There are a lot of tail brands, like the ale brands, Estrella Damm and Michelob. And we have to decide what roles Leffe and Hoegaarden play."

The brewer has so far refused to comment on speculation that Staropramen could be among the casualties.

MacFarlane said the brewer would focus its attention behind its core brands - Stella Artois, Beck's Vier and Budweiser.

A new TV campaign for Stella Artois will break later this year, along side a new commercial for Budweiser, which

marks a

change in direction for the brand since Inbev 's

deal with Anheuser-Busch.

"The Obama effect is interesting for the brand. Maybe the American association over the past two to three years has been difficult for the brand, but now it might be a benefit," MacFarlane said.




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