Did you know that the leading beer-maker in the world is Belgian?
Today, AB InBev represents 20% of the global sale of beers and is the undisputed leader on the beer market. But how did this Belgian company manage to make its way to the top to become a global giant? This is what four historians explain in their book Becoming the World's Biggest Brewer.
The story starts in the 19th century with two brewers, Artois from the Den Hoorn brewery, and Piedboeuf. The first was located in Leuven, and the second in Jupille. Den Hoorn has existed since 1366 and is one of the oldest breweries in Belgium.
In the 1970-1980s, Artois and Piedboeuf were the market leaders. At the time, Artois already held 30% of the market share and was unable to expand further. The Piedboeuf brewery only held 6% of the market and was experiencing problems with growth and equipment. To deal with these problems, the two breweries decided to conclude a secret alliance. At the time, nobody, not even the sales reps, suspected a thing. This secret alliance lasted 16 years. It was only in 1987 that Artois and Piedboeuf merged. This merger led to the creation of Interbrew.
Over time, Interbrew has made its name in the brewing sector. In 1995, Interbrew bought the Canadian group Labatt, thus making the largest ever acquisition by a Belgian company at the time. 2000 marked the company's listing on the stock market and, in 2004, it merged with the Brazilian company AmBev to become InBev. It was only in 2008, with the purchase of the American group, Anheuser-Busch, that the AB InBev group was created. Today, AB InBev is a global giant operating in North America, Latin American, and throughout Europe, as well as in a large number of African countries, and in Asia.
The Belgian company's permanence is, above all, the result of strong family shareholding and openness. Indeed, it has succeeded in opening up to external players whilst also maintaining control over all the strategic decisions. The original history of AB InBev also offers an insight into the growth and consolidation of the global beer-making market over the years