I’ve spend some time on the topic recently (LINK, LINK, LINK) with several posts detailing some of the dangers of the industry consolidation taking place in this country and the world. In a far more detailed essay, the Washington Monthly and author Tim Heffernan restore some of my faith in journalism.
While not entirely agreeing with the premise that “cheap beer” is the nation’s greatest danger (causes of alcoholism are much more complex than just “price,” while alcohol is already relatively cheap in the U.S. compared to nearly every European country), I absolutely agree with his conclusion that two immense companies now wield way too much power – particularly in the growing vertical integration they are pursuing – and they won’t be afraid to use it to crush competitors, distribution “partners,” retailers and consumers who stand in their way.
Quite simply, while this is a long article, this is a must-read to understand what’s happening in the industry. This, in my view, is the greatest threat to the craft industry: the might of AB InBev & SABMillerCoors (or their merged company if it happens) can and will be used to either destroy these pesky little guys or prevent them from ever gaining foothold again, at least in terms of any size (they’ll tolerate a bunch of little breweries that pose no threat). As mentioned in previous posts (see the links above), the big guys are moving rapidly into craft brewer “space,” and the net result will undoubtably be to push the little guys from the shelves. The key will be for the little guys to EDUCATE consumers – one by one – as to who is actually independent and who is part of the massive, multinational conglomerate…and then hope consumers choose wisely.