AB InBev has finished the first quarter of this year with strong results. The company reported sales of USD 14.2bn, a 13.2% organic rise that beat analysts’ expectations of a 9.9% increase. EBITDA positively surprised as well and grew by 13.6% compared with consensus expectations of a 5.6% rise.
Due to the easing of COVID restrictions in China, the Asia-Pacific market saw a strong volume increase (+9.0%), offsetting the stagnant or negative sales of the other regions (North America -1.0%; Central America +0.1%; South America -0.2 %; Europe, Middle East, Africa -1.0%). In total, volume sales in the group increased by +0.9%, with the core business beer contributing +0.4% and the non-beer business contributing +3.6% to the overall growth.
The group's top brands posted double-digit growth outside their home markets: Corona grew 11.9% outside Mexico, Stella Artois grew 13.3% outside Belgium and Budweiser grew 17.8% outside the US. However, this selective approach suggests that brands have not fared quite as well in their home markets.
CEO Michel Doukeris said US sales of Bud Light fell in the first three weeks of April due to the scandal involving a transgender influencer and activist Dylan Mulvaney. (inside.beer, 14.4.2023) However, these represented only 1% of the company's worldwide volume in the specified period.
On a conference call with investors, he insisted that producing special Bud Light cans featuring Mulvaney's likeness was "one can" and "not a campaign”. (inside.beer, 4.5.2023)
“Seeing [the affair] in the context of our global business gives us perspective,” Doukeris said. “Over the years, our global footprint has enabled us to successfully navigate different types of challenges such as the temporary ban on beer sales in certain countries, and the month-long shut down of bars and restaurants across the globe.”
Nevertheless he had to admit that there had been “some spillover” that was impacting sales of other AB InBev brands in the US. It has to be seen, if the actions planned for this summer will suffice to normalize the situation. Measures include tripling media investment in the Bud Light brand, as well as doubling down on key partnerships for the brand, including the NFL draft and music festivals across the US.