London craft brewer Meantime, bought by SABMiller just seven months ago, will be put up for sale by new owners AB InBev.
The Brazilian-Belgian megabrewer agreed a deal for their closest rival last month, but it seems that Meantime will not be part of their plans going forward.
What that means is not certain. Could it be that AB InBev is uninterested in the UK craft beer market? Has Meantime underperformed or failed to meet the expectations set by AB InBev’s own craft acquisition, Goose Island? Perhaps Meantime just wasn’t rated by SABMiller’s new owners?
What will happen to Meantime is another topic of speculation.
I recently wrote on the subject of craft beer acquisitions and ex craft beer, and floated the idea of Heineken or Carlsberg getting in on it. Is there any chance that they will be casting their eyes over the opportunity, for a cut price deal maybe?
In my opinion, they’ll be steering clear. They’ll want a “new” buy, rather than buying second-hand. In an industry governed by novelty, buying an existing brewery is bad enough. Buying from a second-owner, no matter how well they’ve treated it, just lacks something. That new brewery smell, if you know what I mean.
What I believe is more likely, is that a regional brewery will look to grab a bargain. Breweries like Brains and Greene King have introduced their own “craft” brands, but they will never compete with the true, independent craft brewers. Perhaps Meantime still retains more of an authentic craft-ness about it, that could do very well for a regional brewery.
What it shows though, is that selling out to a larger brewery isn’t a lottery win. It doesn’t set you up for life and you are not assured of a bright future. Brewers still have to work hard, if not harder, to maintain their brand. And after all of that hard work, you may see it sold on as a commodity anyway – or even worse, shut down completely. (Though some may have a fair bit of cash to soothe the pain.)
It’s a case that should be closely monitored by those at Ballast Point, and any other breweries looking to sell on. It may also signal the end of the Great Craft Brewery Buying Spree. Perhaps megabrewers and distribution companies are recognising that a craft brewery’s value is in their craft status – something they will always lose, no matter how much money they offer.