AB InBev replaces North American operation head as US beer sales continue to fall

Anheuser-Busch InBev announced on Monday the appointment of a new North American head, Michel Donkeris to replace João Castro Neves, a 20-year veteran of the Belgian/Brazilian brewer as beer sales in the U.S., the company’s most important market continue to lag.

The company said in a statement that Mr. Neves who had been in charge of the North American division for two years would be leaving the company “to pursue other opportunities” and thanked him for his 22-years “distinguished career” at the firm.

Mr. Doukeris, who is the brewer’s global chief sales officer, also a 20-year veteran of the firm has until now been in charge of the company’s Asian operations, helping to grow Budweiser globally and launched the firm’s premium beer business.

Budweiser, one of the company’s global brands has been in decline in the United States for a decade and so has its lighter version, Bud Light despite efforts by the brewer to arrest the situation. The reason being that U.S. drinkers have gradually been turning away from multinational beer brands, opting instead for brews made by small independent brewers called “craft beers”, imported brands, particularly from Mexico, as well as wines & spirits.

AB InBev’s share of the U.S. beer market slid to 44.1% in 2016 from 50.6% in 2008, according to research firm Euromonitor. The decline has continued this year with a third quarter fall of 5.3%

However, North America remains the company’s biggest profit contributor, with the U.S. and Canada accounting for about a third of profits, according to analysts.

“The U.S. is our most important market and we recognize the need to continue to focus on driving topline growth across our portfolio,” said Carlos Brito, AB InBev CEO.

Commenting on Doukeris’ appointment, Brito said the 44-year old Brazilian was “the ideal person” to head the company’s operation, citing his sales background. “He’s very consumer-centric, he has a great commercial mind,” adding that the company will focus more on category expansion and category management, approaches learned from SABMiller, which the firm took over last year. The outgoing Neves focused on building stronger relationships with distributors (wholesalers).

Speaking on his new role, Doukeris said “the real opportunities” are in how to better organise the portfolio for growth, adding that he would supplement a national strategy with identification of pockets within the U.S. where he could boost sales of Budweiser and Bud Light.

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