Beer, Wine & Spirits

Beer giant Anheuser-Busch bets bigger on craft brew

Craft brings romance to beer biz: AB InBev CEO
Craft brings romance to beer biz: AB InBev CEO

Bud. Bud Light. Craft beer?

Faced with declining beer sales, at least in its latest quarter, Anheuser-Busch InBev is looking to expand its craft beer business, which already includes the Blue Point and Goose Island brands. Last week, the world's largest beer-maker acquired Oregon's 10 Barrel Brewing.

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The craft beer movement is great for the beer business overall, Anheuser CEO Carlos Brito told CNBC on Thursday.

"They're bringing new views to the beer business. They're bringing romance to the business," Brito said on "Squawk on the Street." "It's a high-end business. So it's better to have, as a market leader, it's better to have entrance in the category that will get consumers to trade up than otherwise."

The brewer can't count on craft beer alone to drive volume, Brito said. It will continue to focus on its staple brands Bud, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra as well as its "high-end" line of Stella Artois and Shock Top, he said.

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Answering consumers' call for variety, Anheuser will continue to experiment with novelty beers, too, Brito said. It will release a tequila-flavored beer next year.

Still, Brito downplayed the recent decline in beer sales. He suggested the company's performance should actually be viewed over a nine-month period from January to September 2014, in which revenue increased roughly 5 percent, he said.

Its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization also climbed about 7 percent over the same time period, Brito added. EBITDA margins expanded during this time, too. By the way, EBITDA is simply a measure of a company's operating performance.