Jason Warner, Europe President, AB InBev comments on our Q4 and FY 2020 results and gives the outlook for Europe
“It goes without saying that 2020 was not a typical year. While we started in a strong position, growing market share and net revenue, the outbreak of COVID-19 meant we rapidly changed course to keep our people safe, protect our operations and continue to serve our consumers, customers and communities in new ways.
“I’m proud of our teams’ resilience and our results during this extraordinary year. Despite the hospitality sector being shut down in the majority of our European markets for over half of the year, with no sporting or music events taking place, more people are enjoying our iconic beers at home, as beer became the number one fast-moving-consumer-goods category in the retail sector. While this good performance in the retail sector in no ways makes up for the closure of the on-premise channel, with our global brands, Stella Artois, Budweiser and Corona, growing ahead of the category we ended the year as the number 1 consumer packaged goods company for value growth in retail.
“We saw this trend emerge last year, as people changed the way they shopped during lockdowns: turning to trusted, well-known brands, buying larger pack sizes as they were taking fewer trips to the supermarket and trading up to premium beer, that could be enjoyed while cooking or sitting down to a meal. Our brands benefited from this trend, increasing penetration and market share on a full year basis in the majority of our key markets, with particularly strong gains in France, Germany and the Netherlands. We also saw our e-commerce net revenue grow by high double digits, led by sales of our PerfectDraft home pouring system.
“While we pivoted quickly to combat supply chain disruption, keep supermarket shelves stocked and fulfil online orders, we worked hard to support our partners in the hospitality sector. Within days of governments shutting down the on-trade sector, we launched social media campaigns and voucher platforms so that consumers could pre-pay for beers at their local pub, which they could redeem once they re-opened. On top of this, we created customized plans for our customers to help them get through these difficult times. We know that a thriving hospitality industry is key to economic recovery and we’ll continue to be there for our bars and pubs this year, working with governments and trade associations on reopening, as many countries have shown that the sector can operate safely.”
“In addition to supporting our hospitality customers, we also moved fast to be there for our communities in the fight against COVID-19. We turned alcohol from our 0% beers into much-needed hand sanitizers and disinfectant, donating 120,000 litres to frontline services across Europe. We gave out alcohol-free beer and hot meals to hospital workers, turned Leffe destined for bars into bread for foodbanks, and donated brand billboards for public health messages. We even bought our own mouth mask machine in Belgium, so that we could produce 300,000 face masks made from recyclable, European-sourced materials each month for our colleagues, customers and communities.
“Amid all of this, we continued to invest in our operations, making them more efficient and sustainable. We signed Europe’s largest ever corporate solar power deal for our Western European breweries to run on 100% renewable electricity by next year and introduced the first electric vehicles into our fleet. We also invested in new innovations and brands. From our strong blonde beer, Victoria, in Belgium to Bud Zero in the UK, we remain committed to going where the consumer goes.
“None of this would be possible without the strength of our teams, our brands and our operations – 2020 was tough but has made us more resilient. I would like to particularly thank our front line workers – our brewery operators and sales teams who have continued to excel and be true owners, adapting their ways of working in line with the new reality. As we look ahead to continued restrictions in these first few months of the year and a gradual reopening in line with vaccination rollouts, we are looking forward to reigniting the hospitality sector with our partners to bring people together safely again and giving our consumers memorable experiences as they begin to reunite with friends and loved ones.”