03 March 2023

AB-InBev shutters US craft brewer Platform

USA | Since 2011, AB-InBev has bought some ten fast-growing regional craft breweries. After the purchase, these brands inevitably changed. Platform brewery from Ohio is a case in point.

Platform, founded in Cleveland in 2014 and acquired by AB-InBev in 2019, from co-founders Paul Benner and Justin Carson, has closed its Cleveland, Ohio, sites, including its taprooms and sour facility, media reported on 22 February. AB-InBev may continue brewing a few core Platform beers elsewhere, some said, but the entire local operation is shuttered and all employees have been laid off.

The firm has always sat uneasily within AB-InBev’s line-up of craft breweries because it never focused on a range of core beers. As the website craftbrewingbusiness.com reminded its readers, “Platform burst onto the scene in 2014 with sleek cans and a constantly new selection of beers. Beyond two core beers and a few seasonals, it never brewed the same beer twice. In fact, Platform used to pump out more than 200 unique beers per year back in the day, not to mention its forays into ciders and hard seltzers.”

This type of business, which relies on one-off can releases, runs counter to the Big Brewer’s strategy of building sustainable core sales with a few large brands, which are available regionally and nationally.

The website craftbrewingbusiness.com added: “Before the pandemic, what drew AB-InBev to Platform was that data-driven, fast-paced approach to beer creation and distribution, combined with its brick-and-mortar footprint in Ohio’s three largest metropolitan cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus. Those locations are now gone. After a mass staff walkout at its Columbus taproom in 2021, Platform never reopened that location, and its Cincinnati outpost closed recently as well.”

Platform’s sales have not fared well under AB-InBev. According to estimates by the Brewers Association, Platform has lost significant volume, going from a high of 28,000 barrels in 2018 to 22,500 barrels in 2021. Sales must have declined further in 2022. In Ohio’s chain retail, volumes dropped some 30 percent in 2022.

“Inconsistent sales priorities and changes within AB-InBev’s craft sales force appear to be contributing to the Ohio brewery’s decline. Leadership for AB-InBev’s High End—a division that includes acquired craft breweries as well as Michelob Ultra’s Pure line of organic beers and imports such as Stella Artois and Estrella Jalisco—did not mention Platform in an early December interview with Brewbound about the division’s 2023 priorities. Instead, changes to AB-InBev’s craft portfolio seem to have left Platform as a footnote, even in its home state,” the website goodbeerhunting.com pointed out in December 2022 already.

As AB-InBev seeks to put its marketing dollars behind fast-moving IPAs and wheat beers in 2023, Platform must have fallen by the wayside.


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