SABMiller will enter the UK craft beer market following the acquisition of Meantime Brewing Company.
SABMiller plans to grow sales of Meantime's beers nationally and explore export opportunities in its European markets under the continued leadership of Nick Miller, Meantime CEO.
Sue Clark, Managing Director, SABMiller Europe, said: "Meantime has been at the forefront of the modern craft beer movement in the UK and brews an outstanding range of beers across a variety of styles. At SABMiller we love local variety, and carefully nurture our 200 local and heritage beers. Meantime, born in a city with a rich beer heritage, will be a special new addition to the SABMiller family.
Clark said Meantime’s team will boost SABMiller’s strategy to “develop beers that appeal to more people, including women, and which can be attractive alternatives to wine and spirits.”
Volumes of beer sales at Meantime grew by 58 percent in 2014, outpacing the UK beer market's 1% growth during the same period and making it one of the top-performing modern craft breweries in the UK.
The acquisition includes Meantime's retail sites, including the Tasting Rooms and the brewery shop in Greenwich, the Greenwich Union pub, pop-up Beerbox pub, and the Brewery Fresh tank beer concept, which is now in 26 pubs across London, complementing SABMiller's Pilsner Urquell unpasteurised tank beer in a further four London pubs.
The acquisition is expected to complete in early June 2015 and Meantime will be incorporated into SABMiller Europe's accounts.
“SABMiller is a small player in the UK market with a 3 percent share in 2014, although between 2009-2014, volumes grew by 25 percent in a category that declined 7 percent over the same period,” said Jeremy Cunnington, Senior Alcoholic Drinks Analyst, Euromonitor International.
“SABMiller has always focused on premium imported larger in the UK and its latest acquisition with London-based Meantime Brewing Company complements its premium focus. Between 2009-2013, the number of breweries has grown by 93 percent driven by the craft phenomenon.”
Spiros Malandrakis, Senior Alcoholic Drinks Analyst, Euromonitor International said big brewers essentially only have three options to escape the maturity and saturation –induced spiral of declines they have been facing.
“The first is diversification into segments beyond their core mainstream business (malt based RTDs, cider, radlers ). The second is geographic expansion and it is self-explanatory, although it should by no means be considered to be a panacea. The emerging market mantra has proven to be overoptimistic as poster-children like China or Russia are prone to geopolitical and macro volatility,” Malandrakis said.
“SABMiller’s move in this case is the third option- taking over iconic craft brewers to make the most of their momentum. This has its own danger of course- will there be a backlash from the overly vocal craft community itself? Will further expansion be undermined by the fact that Meantime is not strictly speaking, craft anymore? It remains to be seen.”