If you’ve had a chance yet to look at the Emerging Markets chapter of the new World Atlas of Beer, you’ll know that my co-author and I are quite bullish on the future of craft beer in Brazil. With a fast-growing middle class, rapidly improving craft breweries and both the summer Olympics and football’s World Cup around the corner, we can’t help but think that things look bright for the country’s ever-expanding premium beer segment.
And apparently we’re not the only ones.
The global research firm, Mintel, has just come out with a report that suggests “strong and premium beer” are the big growth segments in Brazil, with data showing sales had improved 18% year-on-year to 2011. In the report, Sebastian Concha, research director, Latin America at Mintel, is quoted as saying:
“The fact that premium beers are gaining more market share from the standard beer sector highlights the changing consumer mindset in Brazil and how beverage habits relate to this. Huge opportunities lie with Brazil’s hosting of key live sports events in the coming years. With a strong sporting prowess in Brazil and a product closely linked with sporting culture, beer manufacturers who can capitalize on local enthusiasm and blend this to ensure a premium product positioning stand to benefit.”
Now, admittedly, by “premium” Mintel means primarily imports and niche domestic brands like the Kirin-owned Devassa and Heineken-owned Kaiser Bock, but it doesn’t take much imagination to figure that the crafts should be able to capitalize on this movement, as well. After all, what was then just InBev unwittingly helped along the rise of craft beer in North America by promoting the hell out of its imported brands.
Which, unfortunately, is also where the bad news comes in. Moments after I received the Mintel report, I also found in my inbox a news item about the intent of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Brazilian division, AmBev, to open a chain of bars called Nosso Bar across the country. Organized via a semi-franchise arrangement, the bars will reportedly present a clean and gender-neutral image and be designed, of course, to fiercely promote AmBev brands such as Brahma and Sköl.
To be clear, I don’t believe that the latter news in any way outweighs the former — I remain convinced that the future is bright for Brazilian craft beer, despite the barriers the breweries still must overcome — but with AmBev and the other large breweries seeing great revenue potential in South America, the road ahead will likely be anything but smooth.