Why the sale of Peroni and Grolsch could signal a new brand direction

The beer industry has today gone into rumour mill overdrive after it was reported that brands Peroni and Grolsch are set to be sold under plans by the newly formed brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. But the question on everybody's lips is what does the future hold for the branding of the famous beers?

The proposed sale aims to ease European regulatory concerns of the merger of the world's biggest brewers. AB InBev is considering selling the SABMiller brands as the mega-deal continues to thrash out its future in the market place.

Brand side, AB InBev’s heavyweight, big-budget national campaigns are at odds with the more measured, localised efforts of SABMiller. And from a strategic perspective, plans devised for the likes of Budweiser and Stella Artois are more quantitative driven than their SABMiller-owned counterparts due to the influence of the private-equity firm 3G Capital.

As a result the sale of both Peroni and Grolsch, which have historically been based on provenance and authenticity, means their brand direction is now in limbo.

According to Emily St.Clair-Johnson, strategy director at Brand Union, the sale will help AB InBev to maintain focus on its own major brands, such as Budweiser and Leffe, but the challenge for the future owners will be how they can maintan the history of Peroni and Leffe.

"Even without the two brands, AB InBev boasts an impressive global portfolio including Stella Artois and Becks," she said. "But the question is not so much the effect the suspected sale might have on the mega-brewer, but how it might define the future of the Grolsch and Peroni brands.

"Both niche, premium products outside of Italy and the Netherlands, Peroni and Grolsch are characterised by their emphasis on provenance and authenticity. The challenge for whoever acquires the beers will be to maintain the consistent, confident strategies the brands have brought to life over the years - strategies and executions that make room for the local nuances of each.

"In a category which is increasingly defined by the the growing trend of craft and anti-establishment consumer attitudes, means that the whoever eventually buys Peroni and Grolsch will need to resist the urge to re-invent or refresh too fundamentally," added St.Clair-Johnson.

On the flip side struggling Budweiser could certainly be set to benefit. In the US Budweiser's attempts to turn around the fizzling popularity of Bud and Bud Light have failed to pay off. Earlier this year sales in the second quarter continued to fall despite ramping up its marketing to clamber back market share in the sector, which is increasingly being dominated by the craft beer trend. However, the sale of Peroni and Leffe could see a greater emphasis on Budweiser which has recently benefitted from a new design direction form jones knowles ritchie that focuses on the brand's American history.

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