- AB InBev acquired Platform Beer, a fast-growing regional brewery founded in Cleveland in 2014. Terms were not disclosed. Platform will become part of AB InBev's Brewers Collective unit, which currently has a dozen craft beer partners, the company said in a release.
- Platform makes seasonal beverages, sour beer, ciders, fruit ales, barrel-aged beers and a line of hard seltzer. In addition to tasting rooms in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, Platform plans to open a sour beer brewing facility and tasting room in Cleveland and a brewery and tasting room in Pittsburgh.
- Paul Benner, who co-founded Platform, said AB InBev's purchase will bring both resources and autonomy to the company.
AB InBev's latest acquisition brings another regional craft beer company into the fold to diversify its portfolio. The alcohol giant also owns Goose Island Beer, Devils Backbone, Wicked Weed Brewing and Karbach Brewing, among others. Platform will be the 13th craft brand in the group when the acquisition is complete, according to AB InBev.
In the past three years, AB InBev said it has poured more than $130 million into these craft partners, enabling them to hire almost 1,000 new workers, open new facilities and brew more beer. Growing this segment could help the brewing giant in a difficult alcohol marketplace as consumer demands shift. Its flagship Budweiser and Bud Light brands have seen sales slide as consumers flock toward spirits, craft brews, Mexican beer and wine. Platform could help AB InBev attract younger consumers.
These deals also help the world's largest brewer to further diversify into sour beer, fruit ales and hard seltzer. Millennials and other adventurous beverage drinkers are looking for something different, and don't have loyalty to legacy brands. Major beer companies have been trying to lure this demographic group back. Trendy flavors and styles could be part of the solution.
For craft beer and some other beverage producers in the space, there have been signs of success. According to IRI, beer sales were up 3.5% from January through mid-July of this year, with flavored malt beverages, hard seltzers and domestic super-premium beers behind the increase. Craft beer sales were up 2.9% during that same period.
These factors may have played into AB InBev's acquisition of Platform, but there were other elements that likely appealed to the company as well. According to Crain's Cleveland Business, Marcelo Michaelis, president of the Brewers Collective, didn't know Platform existed until three months ago when he bought a couple of its beers during a visit to another craft partner in New York. Michaelis said he liked the design, the beer and the speed of its growth. He told the publication he was impressed that the craft brewer had expanded to three cities in five years through taprooms and other creative strategies.
How AB InBev might be able to incorporate Platform's regional style into its existing products remains to be seen, especially as the beer business ebbs and flows as new beverages emerge and consumer trends shift. Whether the parent company will invest more in ciders, sour beer, fruit ales and hard seltzers will likely depend on those developments and the upcoming sales it sees from its newest craft partner.