Craft Brew Alliance has expanded distribution of the Kona Brewing brand to Brazil, the world’s third-largest beer market, tapping Anheuser-Busch InBev subsidiary Ambev as its importer and distributor.
Ambev began distributing Kona’s Longboard Lager and Big Wave Golden Ale throughout Brazil, the world’s third largest beer market, last December, CBA said in a release.
“We’re excited to continue building on our long-standing partnership with AB InBev through forging this pioneering new relationship with Ambev,” Andy Thomas, the CEO of CBA said in a statement.
With the deal, CBA builds on a pre-existing relationship with A-B InBev. The larger company owns about 32 percent of CBA. CBA gains wide access to a Brazilian craft market that, like the U.S., is growing double-digits each year and now includes more than 300 craft breweries.
Ambev, which operates as both a manufacturer and a distributor in Brazil, currently controls about 70 percent of the beer sold throughout the country, according to Forbes.
In a press release, CBA said Ambev — which makes and distributes beer and other beverages in 18 countries and also serves as the exclusive bottler and wholesaler for PepsiCo — was “uniquely positioned” to meet the increasing demand for craft beer in Brazil.
“This partnership brings together Ambev’s beer expertise with an internationally loved craft beer and brand to meet the increasing demand for distinctive, authentic American craft beers in Brazil,” Thomas said.
The deal with Ambev also represents the first new international expansion CBA has embarked on without the help of “Craft Can Travel,” a New York-based exporting company that works exclusively with CBA in 26 other countries.
In a conversation with Brewbound, Thomas said CBA negotiated the right to “carve out” certain countries, like Brazil, from Craft Can Travel’s footprint.
“I think what ABI has started to realize is that American craft is beginning to resonate in a lot of markets, and they are looking for ways to stay ahead of their global competitors,” said Thomas. “We haven’t been shy about the fact that our relationship with ABI is continuing to improve. We started to look at the global business and where the two companies might have mutually-aligned interests.”
Thomas also pointed to the cultural similarities between Hawaii and Brazil, noting that both have an affinity for beach activities and watersports.
“We think the opportunity for Kona in Brazil is massive, especially with the great synergies between Hawaiian and Brazilian culture, with their amazing beaches and strong water lifestyles,” Thomas said in a statement.
CBA’s Widmer, Redhook and Omission brands could also be exported to Brazil as A-B “sets its craft strategy,” Thomas said.
Although export is a small piece of CBA’s overall business, it has grown in recent years. In 2014, international shipments were up 91 percent, the company said.