Consolidation Continues as A-B Invests in 2 California Wholesalers


Anheuser-Busch has struck again. Less than one month after it announced the acquisition of four wholesalers in Colorado, the world’s largest beer company today announced another set of distributor transactions in California.

In a statement, Bob Tallett, A-B InBev’s vice president of business and wholesaler development, said the company has agreed to acquire a portion of Oakland, Calif.-based Horizon Beverage Company’s distribution business. In a second transaction, A-B will repurchase its brand rights from M.E. Fox & Company Inc., a beer and non-alcoholic beverage distributor based in San Jose, Calif.

Financial terms of the two transactions, which are set to close in November, were not disclosed.

“Both distributors have well-run, successful operations in California, which is a high-priority market for us,” Tallett said in a statement. “When we learned of their openness to selling, we recognized these transactions align with our emphasis on urban markets.”

A-B is still “working out all the details,” Tallet said, but the company plans to “keep several local craft beers” in its portfolio (presumably the Horizon portfolio). Horizon currently sells prominent craft brands Firestone Walker, Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, Ninkasi and Golden Road, among others. Those decisions are still pending supplier approval, however.

M.E. Fox has a similar book — it also sells the Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada and Golden Road brands. The company has agreed to sell the distribution rights to A-B-owned brands back to A-B InBev. Products from Craft Brew Alliance, which are sold through A-B wholesalers as part of a nationwide distribution agreement, are involved in the transaction, a source familiar with the transaction told Brewbound.

In a letter sent to suppliers and obtained by Brewbound, M.E. Fox president Terence Fox said the company intends to transfer and sell the rights to its other beer and beverage products (excluding Red Bull) to DBI Beverages Inc.

The fate of Horizon’s current craft suppliers is less clear, however, and it’s not known which companies, if any, will continue to work with the Oakland wholesaler now that A-B has taken a stake.

Reached by email, Golden Road co-founder Meg Gill said she was never informed of A-B’s plan to invest in the two California wholesalers, adding that she wasn’t sure how Golden Road would be impacted or if her company would approve the two deals. 

Also reached by email, Joe Whitney, Sierra Nevada’s head of sales and marketing, said he believes all non-A-B brands will be sold to other distributors in the area, adding that he “doesn’t believe there is interest on either side to keep [our] brands at an ABI branch.”

A-B InBev, via the Horizon Beverage warehouse in Oakland, will reportedly take over the distribution responsibilities of A-B products sold throughout Santa Clara County, where M.E. Fox currently operates.

“Consolidating these two contiguous territories will allow us to better compete in and serve this dynamic and challenging market,” Tallett said in the statement.

In addition to its transactions in Colorado and Northern California, A-B also purchased New York’s R. Ippolito Distributing in July. Recall that earlier this summer, A-B was forced to sell its Kentucky distributorships after lawmakers passed a bill clarifying that breweries could not own wholesale operations in the state.

Editor’s note: In a separate announcement, A-B also said it would invest $170 million to expand its Metal Container Corporation (MCC) facility in Jacksonville, Fla. MCC, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch, operates seven facilities in the U.S., the company said. It also produces cans and lids for major U.S. soft drink companies, including PepsiCo. and Monster Beverage Corporation.