Company strategies in alcoholic drinks vary significantly across categories, especially the main three – beer, wine and spirits. In many cases, there is limited scope for further large-scale acquisitions. However, in addition to organic growth, takeovers continue to play a key role in expansion strategies. At the same time, alcoholic drinks players are having to navigate a shifting landscape as a result of digital advances, changing consumer priorities and wider legislative developments.
The three major alcoholic drinks categories – beer, wine and spirits – each require different development strategies, largely due to variations in methods of production and operation. There are, however, unifying trends – premiumisation, for example.
Beer is by far the most consolidated of the three main categories, with significant acquisitions taking place in key markets China and Brazil in 2017. The craft, or “independent” segment continues to play a key role, and niche categories such as non-alcoholic beer offer potential for both major players and microbrewers.
Cider is a logical choice for brewers looking to expand outside of beer, as the two categories share similar distribution models. RTDs appeal to brewers and spirits producers as the category broadens its appeal among different demographic groups.
Leading international distillers continue to premiumise, as well as acquiring craft brands in 2017 and 2018, such as Pernod Ricard’s acquisition of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal. Major players are focused on expanding geographic and category spread, as the focus has historically been narrow, especially for Bacardi.
Globally, wine remains highly fragmented. The leading players – E&J Gallo Winery and Constellation Brands – are focused on North America, which is supported by higher levels of brand-consciousness than in other regions. Many companies are exploring non-traditional marketing strategies to engage with a wider audience.
The potential for future mergers and acquisitions activity varies significantly across categories. At the same time, alcoholic drinks players will have to navigate a shifting landscape as a result of digital advances, environmental concerns, cross-category diversification and cannabis legalisation plans.
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