Prohibition is over! Time to buy a bucket of beer stocks
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally delivered on a campaign promise and repealed Prohibition on this day in 1933, he celebrated by drinking a dirty martini in the Oval Office. And even though his festive campaign song "Happy Days Are Here Again" wasn't specifically tailored for the 21st Amendment, it did accurately define a culture for many Americans.
We like our booze and its best to just keep your hands off of it!
The interesting fact about Prohibition was that Americans were legally permitted to consume alcohol. Of course, manufacturing and distributing were the real issues of the 18th Amendment; but if you were able to find the stuff, you were free to indulge all you want. The irony is that here we are — 80 years later — and Americans are consuming more booze than ever before … and you're free to buy it!
Maybe somebody knows something and a 21st century version of Prohibition is around the corner. A political topic for another time, I suppose.
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But according to the National Institutes of Health, consumption of alcohol skyrocketed following the end of Prohibition up until the 1950's. Since then, consumption of spirits has steadily decreased while beer has trended higher.
Clearly there are all kinds of reasons why beer consumption has risen, particularly since the beginning of the Great Recession. A can of beer will always be less expensive than, say, a fifth of Jack Daniels. So, economics has something to do with it; but so does branding, and it's the reason why beer stocks have been solid performers and worthy of portfolio consideration.
The King of Beers has been, and always will be, Budweiser. The company is now known as Anheuser-Busch InBev and has been the dominant player in the beer space. But this wasn't always the case following Prohibition.
The company had to do some serious guerilla marketing once Roosevelt repealed Prohibition because the palate of the beer consumer had changed, and Budweiser's products were no longer in high demand.
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During the 14-year Prohibition period, many sweeter homemade and bootlegged brews were concocted, so Budweiser began giving away its beer to anyone who wanted it. The short-term result was a disaster; over time, the company regained its market share and returned to its "King" status.
BUD proudly holds the No. 1 or No. 2 market position in 19 countries. And, according to research reports, the company holds a 48-percent share of the U.S. beer market. But it's BUD's exposure to offshore markets that has many investors thinking they found the ultimate hangover cure.
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Here's what CEO Carlos Alves de Brito had to say during BUD's earnings conference call, and regurgitated in a Motley Fool column:
"The volumes of our global brands: Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois and Beck's grew collectively by 5 percent. Global Budweiser led the way, up 8.1 percent in the quarter and 7.5 percent year-to-date, led by strong performances in China, Brazil and the U.K. Corona grew by 3.7 percent due to the strong performances in Mexico and the brand's main export outside the U.S."
BUD is poised for a breakout. The stock is up 16 percent year-to-date, but some critical marketing events are set to take place in 2014. Clearly, the Super Bowl is a hit and has done wonders for the stock. But, from an international standpoint, it's the 2014 FIFA World Cup. "This event will bring many new beer drinking occasions to Brazil. BUD is locked and loaded," the company said.
Now, if you prefer to focus your attention to the domestic market, the real winner here is the Boston Beer Company. The maker of Sam Adams is seeing rapid growth in the U.S., as it sold a record number of barrels in 2012 — some 2.7 million barrels of beer to be exact.
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SAM recently released blockbuster earnings, as its revenue increased 29 percent year-over-year. More important, the company reported a 29-percent increase in total core shipment volume. The best part, though, is the commitment to growth. SAM is investing $140 million over the next year into its breweries so it has the capabilities to support its growth.
The stock is soaring—up 74 percent year-to-date. And, with the company's 30-year anniversary of its flagship, Sam Adams, coming up in 2014, you know the marketing machine will be rockin'.
Nobody ever said you need to stop celebrating the end of Prohibition. BUD and SAM should be good enough to keep the party going—at home and in your portfolio.
Disclosure: The author does not own a position in either company, but did extensive due diligence on the brands offered by BUD and SAM. (Please drink responsibly.)
— By Todd M. Schoenberger
Disclosure: The author does not own any positions in the stocks mentioned in the article, but will most likely partake in the consumption statistics.
Todd M. Schoenberger is the founder and managing partner of LandColt Capital LP, and serves as Portfolio Manager of the LandColt Onshore and Offshore Funds. Follow him on Twitter @TMSchoenberger.