Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Examining The Beer Industry Through Philip Van Munching's 'Beer Blast': The Quest For New Products

BeerBlast: The Inside Story Of The Brewing Industry’s Bizarre Battles For YourMoney is a history of the beer industry in the late twentieth century. Philip van Munching, the book’s author, was once the advertising director at his family’s company, the former US importer of Heineken (HEINY) (HINKF). Though the book was written almost two decades ago, I feel it still offers valuable insights, both for those interested in investing in the alcohol industry, as well as for investors in general. 

In my opinion, the most important lesson of Beer Blast is how dramatic the beer industry’s history has been. Alcohol companies have been portrayed as safe, “defensive” investments. The common wisdom is that they do well in any environment because demand for their products is persistent. That may be true, but Van Munching’s account demonstrates how even such defensive companies can be surprisingly chaotic. Defensive companies are often driven to innovate, change, and try to grow as much as their more volatile peers.

Beer Blast shows one example of this tendency by depicting the beer industry’s quest for new, disruptive products. When I read the book, I felt this pressure to innovate was stronger than I had expected of a “defensive” industry selling a product with an ancient history like beer. The book also shows how Anheuser-Busch (BUD), the leader in the US beer industry, has used its market position to be successful in this quest for product innovation. (Read More)