Beer and Globalization

Embattled Bud, Suds in China.

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Who knew beer would be the poster child for globalization's angst-filled march in 2008?

First up: Bud Light, the world's bestselling brew, might have lost its crown...to a Chinese rival.

From the WSJ:

Market watchers say Snow Beer, the product of a joint venture between London-based SABMiller PLC and China Resources Enterprise Ltd., will overtake or has already overtaken Anheuser-Busch Co.'s Bud Light in terms of consumption, depending on how the numbers are crunched.

"I can confirm that the Chinese brand Snow is now the largest beer brand in the world," says Kevin Baker, account director for alcoholic beverages at the U.K.-based market-research firm Canadean Ltd. About 51.2 million hectoliters, or about 1.35 billion gallons, of Snow were consumed last year, compared with 48.4 million for Bud Light as a stand-alone brand, the firm says.

Other research shows Bud Light still on top—but just barely. (It also follows last week's news that Coca-Cola would pay $2.4 billion for China Huiyuan Juice Group.)

Of course, this sort of news only highlights the booze-fueled anger over Belgium-based InBev's proposed $52 billion purchase of Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser and Michelob.

The latest news (via the AP) is that 10 angry beer drinkers have sued to stop the deal:

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are listed as 10 individuals who drink Anheuser-Busch and would be affected if the company raised prices.

Barry Ginsburg said he joined the suit because he is worried how the deal might affect his hometown of St. Louis. He said plaintiffs in the case care about more than paying a little extra for their beer.

"This is bigger than us," Ginsburg said. "We all have a pretty good idea what happens when people have a monopoly, and when it's a foreign company that has a monopoly."