black label
(Black Label)

  • South African alcohol sales bans hit Anheuser-Busch InBev’s results for last year.
  • But the brewer says it managed to grow its local market share, and the revenue it earned per hectolitre of beer sold.
  • Also, cash-strapped consumers opted for cheaper beer brands, especially those with large returnable bottles. This bolstered Black Label in 2020.
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The world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, took a large hit from the pandemic – as restaurants and bars remained closed across the world.

Its revenue fell by almost 4% in the past year, with gross profit down more than 8%. Revenue from its three main brands - Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona - declined by 5%.

In South Africa, three bans on the sale of alcohol resulted in double-digit volume declines, the company said.

The last ban – which came on 29 December – disrupted a "key selling week for beer", and resulted in a slight decline in volumes in the final quarter.

But while sales were down for the year, the company says underlying alcohol demand remains strong in South Africa.

And while its sales were down, revenue per hectolitre sold grew by low single digits in 2020, thanks to “revenue management initiatives” - presumably a reference to price hikes, in part.

In addition, it saw market share gains in both beer and total alcohol.

Carling Black Label, in particular, benefited from a shift to more affordable brands and bulk returnable packages. Black Label's 750ml returnable “quart” bottles are a popular option among price-conscious drinkers.

READ | Turns out, Carling Black Label is Canadian - and South Africans are freaking out

In addition, its flavoured alcohol beverages Brutal Fruit and Flying Fish "outperformed", the company said.

READ | Here’s how Brutal Fruit is rebranding to keep the word 'fruit', while admitting it is an ale

AB Inbev saw “healthy volume growth” in Mozambique and Zambia this year, and in Nigeria, there was low single digit volume growth last year.  Sales declined in Tanzania and Uganda due to an “ongoing challenging economic environment”.

AB Inbev is more optimistic about the year ahead, saying that "sales and profit should improve meaningfully”.

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