Just as Americans have been pouring French wine down the drain and steering clear of Volks-wagens, Europeans eager to express their anger with the U.S.-led war against Iraq have been boycotting a beloved American product: beer.
But don’t expect Patrick Stokes to panic. The president and CEO of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos., the world’s largest brewery, says his best seller, Budweiser, isn’t even sold widely in France or Germany, and that his 153-year-old company is looking to expand to countries in Asia, not Europe.
“We are very focused on about 10 other countries,” Stokes told Boston College’s Chief Executive Club, listing England, Ireland, Canada and Mexico among the company’s biggest foreign sellers. “Not France or Germany. We don’t see a lot of negative impact on our company” from boycotts.
He may not see it, but it’s there. Waiters in bars and restaurants in Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Bonn have been telling patrons that American beers have been pulled from the shelves. The same goes in Paris, where American brews have become targets for protesters of American dominance.
But Stokes says European imbibers are older, not the typical Bud drinker. It’s the Asian market he wants, because of the money there and because it’s a younger population, with a huge number of teenagers who will soon be of legal drinking age.
“If I were to pick places for us to be, I’d say Europe is one of my least favorite and Asia is one of the strongest,” he said. “Young people and a developing economy.”
Anheuser-Busch has entered the Asian market by buying a 27 percent share of Tsingtao, the largest beer manufacturer in China. For a company with annual sales exceeding $14 billion, and one that already has a vise grip on 52 percent of the domestic beer market, it’s just the first step toward expanding its 10 percent share of the global market. As for the French, let them drink Bordeaux.