- Anheuser-Busch InBev is inviting applications for its pilot 100+ Accelerator, a new initiative focused on solving global sustainability problems. The beer giant said it's looking for 10 partners to advance issues such as water stewardship, farmer productivity, product upcycling, responsible sourcing and green logistics. Companies chosen to participate will receive mentoring, funding and access to new networks, the company said.
- Startups have until Sept. 14 to apply for the annual accelerator project, which begins in New York in October and goes until next March. Participants may then make pitches for additional funding from 100+ Accelerator and outside investors at a Global Demo Day in Belgium.
- "At AB InBev, we have a long-term vision to build a company to last for the next 100+ years, which relies on driving sustainability across our business," Tony Milikin, AB InBev’s chief sustainability and procurement officer, said in a statement. "Our approach is rooted in the communities where we live and work, and we are well positioned to support entrepreneurs who are tackling local challenges. Through the 100+ Accelerator, innovators will benefit from our resources, experience and global reach to speed their progress and scale."
The world's largest beer company said its 100+ Accelerator project builds on AB InBev's 2025 Sustainability Goals and will help achieve them. Among other targets, the company plans to source all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and produce all of its packaging from materials made mostly from recycled content. The Budweiser maker said it has reduced water consumption across all of its U.S. breweries by nearly 50% during the past decade.
The 100+ Accelerator project isn't just focused on improving AB InBev's products or expanding them, although some of the startups it partners with are likely to be adjacent businesses. And while many of the challenges it wants to identify solutions for directly apply to beer brewing — water quality, sustainable hop yields, environmentally responsible production practices, etc. — some, such as limiting waste and enhancing literacy in small businesses, could assist any type of business.
Like many other food and beverage manufacturers, AB InBev knows that today's consumers are looking for more transparency and smaller environmental footprints from the brands they buy. Shoppers want to know the companies they patronize reflect their values by embracing environmental sustainability and ethical treatment of workers and animals. Manufacturers have something tangible to gain in this process. According to Label Insight, companies that adopt "complete transparency" are rewarded with consumer loyalty of about 94%.
Taking a more expansive approach to sustainability and finding practical partnerships to achieve related goals can help the beer maker win more consumers. With its most recent earnings report showing slumping sales and lower volumes, AB InBev needs to do more to attract consumer interest in its products and drive growth.
Any chance the company has to showcase creativity, partnerships and sustainability efforts to consumers will help with this effort. Telling part of the story behind successful accelerator initiatives could draw shoppers to case packaging, six-packs and single-bottle labeling. Shelf labels, standalone store displays and social media marketing are other ways AB InBev can let consumers know how it's tackling sustainability goals and not just talking about it.
Danone North America, Mars, Nestlé USA and Unilever USA recently announced the formation of a Sustainable Food Policy Alliance to work together on sodium reduction, responsible marketing and transparency and reducing their impact on the planet, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Those four Big Food firms can collaborate on a number of food system issues, but they may not be as effective as one large company collaborating with 10 startups over a range of sustainability goals.
Any food or beverage manufacturer willing to publicly commit to less waste, lowering power use and adopting a more efficient supply chain is going to stand out from the competition. And if they support innovative startups with funding and solid advice, the end result could help move sustainability goals even closer to reality.