Despite AB InBev's announcement to sell its stake in the Russian joint venture with Turkish brewery group Anadolu Efes and stop license production of its beers in the country, the joint venture now appears to be starting local production of AB InBev beers that were previously imported to Russia, such as Leffe Blonde, Leffe Brune, Spaten and Franziskaner.
Oleg B. Prozorov, CEO at the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Russia, confirmed that he shared relevant information on his Twitter account. As he reported, these previously imported brands are now produced in the Russian breweries in Ulyanovsk, Kaluga, Omsk, Volzhsky, Saransk, Klin and Ivanov “due to the logistical difficulties widespread in the market” and “in order to ensure the continuity of trade processes and availability”.
The seven factories are part of eleven breweries that AB InBev-Efes has in Russia for the production of more than 75 beer brands already made locally, including Belgian beer Stella Artois, Mexican Corona, Brazilian Brahma or Turkish Efes. Until then, Leffe beer had only been produced in the Belgian brewery in Leuven.
After Russia’s invasion to Ukraine on February 24, international brewing groups like Carlsberg and Heineken quickly announced their withdrawal from the country in support of Ukraine's struggle for freedom. AB InBev took a lot longer to make its decision.
On April 22, nearly two months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, AB InBev announced "that it will sell its non-controlling interest in the AB InBev Efes joint venture and is in active discussions with its partner, Turkish Brewer Anadolu Efes, to acquire this interest. AB InBev’s request regarding the suspension of the license for production and sale of Bud in Russia will also be part of a potential transaction." (inside.beer, 22.4.2022)
If the information is true, the brewing giant is likely to face a lot of headwind. Most of the comments on Twitter about the statement were negative, including the nearly unanimous call for a boycott of AB InBev's brands.