Anheuser-Busch InBev unveils $1bn US investment plan

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Carbon dioxide Brewing

Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev) has announced plans to invest more than $1bn in its US breweries and other facilities from 2011-14.

The company said the investment plan, that involves an average yearly spend of $250m, would also support ongoing process improvement projects in 12 breweries across the country and other facilities.

Although the planned yearly spend is less than half of what Anheuser-Busch spent before its merger with Belgian brewing giant InBev in 2008, US-based analyst Mark Swartzberg at Stifel Nicolaus said he thought the firm would invest wisely.

Flat or declining beer sales within ABInBev's categories meant the capital expenditure plans were consistent with his expectations, Swartzberg said.

ABInBev was unavailable for comment on how it would spend the money earmarked for investment, but cited $185m spent this year as part of the total figure.

These include projects to conserve fuel, electricity and water, expand production and upgrade packaging lines at various US sites.

Higher growth areas?

Swartzberg said that he thought the bulk of the $1bn might be spent on higher growth areas such as craft beers.

ABInBev also recently announced a strategic alliance with General Electric, to develop manufacturing solutions aimed at energy efficiency and water savings in production facilities across China.

Water savings are important, given that, according to ABInBev, it typically takes almost 300l of water to make a litre of beer and 170-210l to produce 500ml of soda.

The brewer also aims to cut CO2 emissions by 100,000 tonnes annually as a result of the partnership project.

Patrick Regan, Global Account Executive, GE Food and Beverage Solutions, told that the project represented a new approach to operations in the sector.

Sustainability drive

The project with GE would examine energy use, water consumption and carbon footprint at an enterprise level to provide solutions for the food industry that helped create a competitive advantage, he said.

Regan said: “Rather than dealing with these challenges through a singular product or service approach, we’re looking at the whole system.”

He added: “ABInBev is resetting the bar for brewery operations with this initiative and we’re proud to be their partner.”

Under plans announced this spring, ABInBev wishes to reduce its water-to-beer usage ratio to 3.5 via 2012, cut its energy use and CO2 output, as well increase its use of novel energy sources such as bio- and natural gas.

ABInBev's partnership with GE will see an initial focus on designing energy management software solutions to assess current energy and water usage, and target improvements.

Combined heat and power (CHP) solutions will also use gas engines – with energy efficiency of 70-80 per cent – to allow several AN InBev pilot sites to create electricity via either biogas or natural gas.

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