Mergers and acquisitions in the craft beer industry have evolved from a peak period of large corporate brewery buyouts to craft-on-craft deals and multi-brand craft roll ups, Cascadia Capital managing director Nicole Nugent Fry discussed during her presentation earlier this month at the Brewbound Live business conference in Santa Monica.
In the peak acquisition activity period between 2014 and 2016, megabrewers Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors acquiring smaller local craft brewers such as 10 Barrel, Elysian, Terrapin and Revolver dominated headlines. Those deals were driven by buyers’ desire to acquire brands that showed strong growth potential in their home markets, brands with the potential to grow in outside markets, brands that filled a geographic gap in their portfolio, and brands with sales tilted toward distribution than own-premise. In this time, A-B acquired eight craft brands and MillerCoors acquired four.
Since 2017, however, Fry noted that both buyer rationale and the types of acquisitions have changed. Craft-on-craft deals from the then-largest Brewers Association-defined craft brewers (Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Craft Brew Alliance) increased from none in the 2014-2016 period to six since 2017.
Rollups of smaller craft breweries (CANarchy, Artisanal Brewing Ventures and Legacy Breweries) accounted for six deals as well. Fry noted that buyers are still looking for brands with strong growth in their home markets, but are less interested in brands with potential for strong distribution away from home. Buyers are seeking strong brands with consumer loyalty and products that are differentiated from their own portfolios.
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