Federal investigation of beer company | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Federal investigation of beer company

Greg Risling

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Anheuser-Busch’s campaign to dominate the American beer market.

Using the micro brew lawsuit as a starting point, the Justice Department is looking into the allegations that Anheuser-Busch was hording business through distributorship, thereby reducing the market percentage of smaller, independent micro breweries. The company’s aggressive campaign could be in violation of federal antitrust laws.

Busch has grown in size and scope over the last 10 years. Their kingdom includes not only Budweiser but shares of Red Hook, Corona and Widmer. Anheuser-Busch has added its own line of speciality beers, American Originals.

Their growth has been so tremendous that competitor Miller only makes half of the Busch market share.

Distributors have one of beer’s big three – Bud, Miller and Coors – but may carry smaller brands. Anheuser-Busch has 900 distributors in the United States, 127 of which are in the western region.

According to a national survey, micro brews accounted for 2.6 percent of the market place in 1996. But with the popularity of lesser-known and often labeled “better-crafted” brews, the micros’ share is estimated to jump 17 percent during the next 10 years.

This isn’t the first legal tangle Anheuser-Busch has faced recently. Last June, the company was prohibited from running ads that gave consumers free merchandise for drinking Budweiser. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control deemed the ads unlawful.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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