NEW YORK -- Anheuser-Busch reportedly fired hundreds of employees on Sept. 7, a majority of them in the company's High End division, which oversees the brewer's craft and upscale beers.
“Over the last few years, we have entered into a series of new partnerships, and as our business has grown, we have added more than 2,000 new employees, particularly sales team members in the field, bringing our total number of employees to over 18,000," A-B said in a statement. "As a result, our organizational structure has become overly complex in places."
Or as one sales representative told the Beer Street Journal, “Basically, they’ve bought quite a few breweries and with those purchases came a bunch of employees. They don’t have room for us anymore."
A-B did not say exactly how many employees were let go beyond "less than 2% of the 18,000 employees in North America," or 360 employees at most.
An A-B spokesperson told CSP Daily News that three people in the company's convnience-store/small format division lost their jobs, and three others have had their responsibilities shifted. She did not offer details. The company said it is hopeful the reorganization will streamline the marketing process.
"Our wholesalers [tell us] that they would prefer to have one point of contact. Therefore, during this year’s annual planning process we identified a few areas where we can simplify our business, and we decided that we needed to make some structural and team changes focused on our sales organization," the company said. "We have made considerable efforts to find new roles within our business for people affected by these changes, but some colleagues will be leaving our company."
A-B created the High End business unit, based in New York, in 2015 as a home for craft and import beer brands. At the time, craft-beer sales were growing by double digits; craft sales were up 26% in convenience stores that year, according to CSP's 2016 Category Management Handbook. A year later, that growth rate was down to 7.9%, according to the 2017 Category Management Handbook.
Imported beer sales growth has been more consistent, up 9.5% in 2015 and up 11.1% in 2016, according to IRI data cited in the handbooks.
A-B, however, said it will maintain its High End division as it is currently structured.
“The role and mission of the High End is unchanged. Feedback from our craft partners, wholesalers and retailers is that brewery reps are most appreciated in terms of brand culture and support. So we will be focusing our efforts in this direction moving forward," the company said. "These [layoffs] are difficult decisions to make and ones we take very seriously, but they are vital to ensure we are structured in the most efficient and effective way possible in such a dynamic industry. We continue to be confident about our business and the plans we have in place as we look towards to the remainder of the year and 2018.”