Here are AB InBev management’s comments on the U.S. market in Q3…
In the United States:
The 3Q11 results were impacted by the timing of our 2011 price increase which was three weeks later than our price increase in 2010, leading to an easier volume comparable and a more challenging comparable for revenue per hectoliter.
• Volumes: Industry volumes in 3Q11 continue to be impacted by weak consumer confidence. We estimate that industry shipments to retailers (STRs) declined by 0.4% in 3Q11 and by 1.2% in 9M11. Our shipments (STWs) declined 3.4% and STRs fell by 0.9% in 3Q11, while shipments were down 2.7% and STRs down 2.2% in 9M11.
Market share declined by an estimated 25 bp in 3Q11, concentrated in sub-premium brands, with all of our Focus Brands showing positive share trends. Bud Light, Michelob Ultra and Stella Artois all grew share, and Budweiser’s share decline continued to decelerate. We lost share in the sub-premium segment as an expected consequence of our pricing strategy to narrow the gap between our sub-premium and premium brands.
Our renovations and innovations continue to bring new news to our brands. The 8 oz sleek cans for Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime and Michelob Ultra arrived in stores in October, providing not only consumer convenience but also a useful sampling tool to the sales system. Other examples of innovation in 3Q11 include the introduction of Natty Daddy, Tilt Long Island Tea, Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat and the Shock Top sampler pack
• Revenue management: On 3rd October we increased prices by around 3% on average, with increases varying by brand, region and package. The increase was higher on our sub-premium brands as we continue to narrow the gap to our premium brands.
Beer-only revenue per hl grew by 1.9% in 3Q11, impacted by the timing of the price increase, and 3.0% in 9M11. The brand mix contribution was neutral in 3Q11, as the anticipated trade buy-in ahead of our October price increase was skewed towards sub-premium brands which, as mentioned earlier, were subject to a larger price increase than our premium brands. The brand mix contribution was 36 bp in 9M11
• Bud Light growth: Accelerating the growth of Bud Light is our number one priority in the United States. We estimate the brand gained 5 bp of market share in 3Q11 and 10 bp in 9M11, with key brand health indicators continuing to improve.
Although it is too early to reach conclusions, there are indications that the brand is starting to benefit from the new NFL sponsorship with the property providing rich content for branded packaging, in-stadium promotions and full 360 degree retail execution, supported by traditional and digital media. We are also launching themed thermochromatic Bud Light Lime cans to support our NFL Pro-Bowl activation.
Finally, we have announced the introduction of Bud Light Platinum, a trendy blue-bottle line extension that appeals to a key group of beer drinkers and expands consumer occasions. The roll-out is planned for January 2012.
• Budweiser stabilization: We are very pleased with the progress we are making with Budweiser, with share declines continuing to decelerate and key brand health indicators improving. We estimate that we have cut the brand’s market share decline from 42 bp in 3Q10 to 28 bp in 3Q11. The new packaging and new “bowtie can” are now available in all US markets and have been well received
• High end growth: We are growing our share of the high end segment at an aggressive pace. Based on IRI data, our share of the segment in 9M11 has improved by 1.3 pp compared to the same period last year. Our high end shipment volumes increased 17% in 3Q11 and 19% in 9M11. Sales-to-retailers (STRs) were up 23% in 3Q11 and 19% in 9M11. So far in 2011 we have added over 330,000 additional points of distribution for our high end brands.
The STRs of our top six high end brands (Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Land Shark and Shock Top) collectively grew by 29% in 3Q11 and by 24% in 9M11, with Stella Artois, Leffe and Shock Top leading the way with STRs increasing 28%, 44% and 116%, respectively in 3Q11