AB InBev’s mobile marketing plan to bring beer and food closer together

Beer is the new wine when it comes to food and AB InBev is crafting a mobile platform that inspires people to combine the two as it looks to reinforce the quality and craftsmanship of its brands.

The food and beer pairing movement is quickly gathering pace thanks to the growing popularity of craft beers. A quarter of Brits said they would choose beer over wine with their roast dinner, according to an AB InBev commissioned study, while nearly two thirds (46 per cent) felt it was more socially acceptable to order a beer in a fine dining restaurant.

AB InBev believes the trend is here to the stay, making it a key part of its efforts to build a formidable offering around mobile. A food and beer paring API is the first initiative to flow from this plan and was built by its digital innovation arm - the Beer Garage - and social recipe network Foodily. It is shrouded in secrecy but was made available to attendees to the brewer’s hackathon in London last month for the first time.

At the event the brewer sourced ideas for the API and eventually selected an app which matches the weather with specific food and beer. Users could then purchase the selected products, furthering the brewer’s push into the ecommerce arena. Elements from app, designed by recipe finder app Whisk, are set to be scaled up with the brewer keen to work with the developers moving forward.

AB InBev views the API as a testbed for ways to convince customers to engage with its brands in-stores from their smartphones. "An API allows our data to be “present in many consumer facing apps,” said a spokeswoman.

It’s a scalable way of getting our data out there because it can be continually reapplied in whatever site or app is popular at a given time."

Many shoppers don’t see the value in using their phones in grocery aisles but the brewer believes that if it can convince them to do so then it will be able to mine data from their phones. The food and beer pairing API and the results of the Hackathon are just early examples of the partnership opportunities within the tech industry that AB InBev hopes to exploit. One of the reasons AB InBev ran the Hackathon is because it is aware there are additional creative applications that we “haven’t even dreamed up yet”.

“For the food+beer pairing API specifically, this could be included in eCommerce functions of retailers, recipe pages or used to power entertaining recommendations. One of the reasons we held the Hackathon is because we know there are additional creative applications that we haven’t even dreamed up yet,” added the spokeswoman.

The brewer’s charm offensive of the technology industry ties back to its bid to win over younger drinkers. Consequently, marketing and media at the brewer are undergoing major changes that is pushing digital, particularly mobile, to the fore of upcoming efforts.

“Mobile plays such an important part in consumers’ lives and as they increasingly use their devices when shopping to aid in their decision-making process, we see many opportunities for engagement via mobile,” added the spokeswoman.

“E-Commerce is an additional route to market. It is a new and growing way to reach consumers with more targeted, curated information. It also forces us to rethink marketing. We are still learning here and will continue to evolve with our consumers.

An increase of marketing spend by mid-single to high-single digits on 2014 will fuel the shift as the business looks to drive volumes. Value sales rose 5.9 per cent in 2014, while volumes increased just 0.6 per cent after the brewer benefited from growth in emerging markets of higher priced brands such as Budweiser. It predicts improved beer sales in most of its major markets this year.

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