AB InBev dismisses hundreds of US workers

Brewing giant AB InBev has laid-off almost 400 employees from its High End division – the section responsible for its craft beer acquisitions and ‘super-premium’ imports – although the exact number of people affected has not been disclosed.

The cuts were revealed in meetings and conference calls to employees on thursday afternoon (07/09/2017) and were officially announced in a letter from Alex Medicis, AB InBev’s vice president of sales, to the company’s wholesale partners that evening.

It is estimated that since acquiring 10 US craft breweries for its High End portfolio since 2011, AB InBev has hired around 2,000 extra employees.

As reported by Beer Street Journal, AB InBev employees working directly for the acquired breweries forming AB InBev’s High End portfolio (Goose Island, 10 Barrel, Golden Road, Elysian, Blue Point, Wicked Weed, Four Peaks, Devil’s Backbone, Breckenridge and Karbach) will remain in their posts.

A spokesman for AB InBev has said that that the redundancies only affect 2% of AB InBev’s 18,000 North American workers.

The restructure was based on wholesaler feedback together with an annual review of AB InBev’s organisational structure. In his letter, Medicis noted that “there are a few key areas in our sales organisation where we can simplify our business”.

He also revealed that the total number of AB InBev employees in the US had risen to over 18,000, and this increase was particularly noticeable among “sales team members in the field”.

Wholesalers reported that they were often working with two district managers (one for the core brands and the other for the High End portfolio), leading AB InBev to conclude that there is “significant overlap at the district manager level”. By reducing the number of district managers, the company says it is giving its wholesalers “one point-of-contact for our full portfolio of brands”.

In addition, AB InBev is scrapping its sales representatives within the High End division as well as announcing plans to move its Region 1 office from Boston to New Jersey early next year “in order to centralise this team geographically within the region”. It will cease its brand activation manager and trade activation manager programmes following “concern” expressed from wholesalers as to whether the schemes were effective and cost-efficient.

The company will instead be hiring inventory managers “in each region to support inventory and forecasting”. These individuals will coordinate with district managers, regional craft brewery managers and High End directors.

Medicis said AB InBev are making “considerable efforts to find new roles within our business for people affected by this restructuring”.

The High End division is headed up by three “priority brand families” – Stella Artois, Shock Top and Goose Island – and sales of its brands amounted to over 1.8 million barrels in 2016, according to the Brewers Association.

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