As beer companies diversify beyond alcohol, what's next?
Is the future of beer… less beer?
Probably not, but today’s global alcohol conglomerates may have gotten so big that there’s nowhere for them to go except for into new industries.
And they’re paying to open new doors.
This week, beer giant Molson Coors acquired kombucha startup Clearly Kombucha, while Heineken launched a new initiative, Draft for Home, to deliver cold brew coffee and kombucha alonside beer.
This is just the latest evidence of alcohol companies diversifying.
- AB InBev hopes that its low-alcohol and non-alcoholic business will represent 20% of global sales by 2025, from 8% today. Last year it began selling teas through an agreement with Starbucks’ Teavana, and in July it acquired organic energy drink startup Hiball.
- Heineken launched a zero-alcohol beer last year, which it has continued to expand.
- Constellation Brands spent roughly $191M to acquire 9.9% of Canopy Growth, a Candian marijuana company, last October.
- Molson Coors, aside from its acquisition of Clearly Kombucha this week, invested in chai startup Bhakti Chai last year.
- Diageo, which owns Guinness, Smirnoff, and other brands, invested in Seedlip, a non-alcoholic herbal spirits startup.
What startups might become future targets for big alcohol? I’d keep my eye on:
- Kombucha startups: Health-Ade (with $35.25M raised), Humm ($24.7M), and Revive ($9.6M) are the three most well-funded today. Revive has ties to coffee as well, since it’s backed by Peet’s (owned by JAB), so it could be doubly interesting to alcohol players.
- Cold brew startups: Coffee could help alcohol companies engage shoppers at new times of the day and open the door for new types of mixed drinks. Startups here include Rise and High Brew.
- Smart distribution technology: Complex regulations make e-commerce tricky for alcohol companies in the US. But, we still see players looking at delivery (such as AB InBev’s investment into drone startup Starship) and connected points of sale (AB InBev’s WeissBeerger acquisition). We may see more deals focused distributing through bars, restaurants, offices, concerts, events, and on-demand.
- Herbal beverages: Like Hiball and Seedlip, healthy beverage startups such as Spindrift, Q Drinks, Mati Energy, and Live Soda could be attractive targets.
- Cannabis: Legalized cannabis could seriously threaten the alcohol industry — or it could benefit companies that hop on the trend. Constellation Brands’ stock jumped after its cannabis investment, and other alcohol leaders may be inspired.
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