AB InBev sues Constellation Manufacturers over transfer to promote new Mexican beers in US


  • AB InBev filed a lawsuit within the U.S. District Courtroom of the Southern District of New York Tuesday over Constellation’s launch of two Modelo Reserva beers, based on a duplicate of the court docket submitting.
  • The beers embody one aged on tequila barrels and a second on bourbon barrels. Within the submitting, AB InBev stated the primary breaches U.S. and Mexican legal guidelines that “strictly prohibit” the usage of the phrase tequila, and the second breaches Constellation’s sublicense settlement to promote “Mexican-style beer” as a result of bourbon has nothing to do with Mexico.
  • The swimsuit marks the second between the 2 firms this yr. In February, AB InBev’s Mexican arm Grupo Modelo filed a lawsuit in opposition to Constellation Manufacturers accusing the corporate of violating a model licensing settlement when it launched Corona Exhausting Seltzer. The lawsuit stated the settlement solely allowed Constellation to make use of Corona within the U.S. when it got here to beer.

Dive Perception:

As beer makers battle for market share in a aggressive alcohol house, lawsuits have gotten an even bigger device of their battle to remain forward. Within the case of AB InBev and Constellation Manufacturers, the fast-changing panorama has turned firms that gave the impression to be working in concord for years into fierce rivals.

After AB InBev took full management of Grupo Modelo in 2013, AB InBev needed to divest the corporate’s enterprise within the U.S. to Constellation, following a take care of regulators who have been involved its market share would have been too excessive. Right now, AB InBev owns the rights to beers like Modelo and Corona in Mexico and the remainder of the world.

The U.S. beer sector as an entire has struggled in recent times, however one of many few vivid spots has been Mexican imports. Because the subsector has grown, Constellation has been among the many largest beneficiaries.

In its lawsuit, Grupo Modelo notified Constellation of its concern in June over the brand new beers however that the corporate refused to cease promoting them. Constellation stated in an announcement to Meals Dive the “claims are with out advantage. Now we have absolutely complied with the phrases set forth in our sublicense settlement and can proceed to vigorously defend our rights beneath the settlement and relevant legislation.”

Constellation discontinued the Modelo Reserva bourbon barrel aged providing final yr.

It is doable the 2 sides might attain an settlement over the remaining tequila-based beer the place AB InBev will get a proportion of gross sales. For now although, it seems this disagreement is ticketed for the U.S. authorized system. 

U.S. spirits had a powerful yr in 2020, based on the Distilled Spirits Council of the USA. Provider gross sales of spirits rose 7.7% in 2020 to $31.2 billion. Spirits have been in a position to acquire 1.3 proportion factors in market share over beer and wine in 2020, commanding 39.1% of whole beverage alcohol gross sales.

The expansion in spirits is a giant purpose why beer makers have tapped into this class for a few of their latest product launches. AB InBev, for instance, partnered with Beam Suntory to launch a beer in 2018 aged on Jim Beam bourbon barrel staves. 

The lawsuit involving Constellation and AB InBev marks the most recent skirmish to infiltrate alcohol. Tequila commerce physique the Consejo Regulador del Tequila just lately settled a multi-year lawsuit with Heineken over use of the phrase ‘Tequila’ on the Dutch firm’s Desperados model. A federal appeals court docket final yr overturned a decrease court docket’s ruling that backed Molson Coors in an ongoing battle about corn syrup in opposition to its bitter rival Anheuser-Busch. And Molson Coors just lately settled a trademark case involving its common Vizzy exhausting seltzer.

As alcohol makers try to latch on to the fast-growing niches, and the strains between several types of drinks within the class like beer and spirits additional blurs, the litigious temper sweeping all through the sector is unlikely to abate anytime quickly.

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