For two years, Anheuser-Busch Cos., Miller Brewing Co. and Adolph Coors Co. have tried new strategies in Latin markets. "If you're going to be international, you have to be in key markets," said Ron George, Coors' manager of international markets. "In this hemisphere, you have to be in Mexico and Brazil."
Brazil, where beer sales grow 5% annually, is the world's fifth biggest beer market. Beer also pours through Argentina, where per capita consumption grew 32.6% to 34 liters from 1991 to 1995.
Of U.S. brewers, A-B is pushing hardest. A-B set up a joint venture agreement with Brazil's Companhia Antarctica Paulista in 1994 and took a minority stake in CCU Argentina in December. A-B also holds 18% of Mexico's Grupo Modelo, marketing and distributing A-B brands.
"These markets have tremendous growth potential, with stable governments and economies," said Charlie Acevedo, director of marketing for Latin America.
Regionally, print ads and radio support the brands' upscale image.
"In Brazil, Budweiser is a premium brand," Mr. Acevedo said. "In Argentina, Bud is a mainline standard brand. In Mexico, we're focusing on distribution and merchandising, relying on pan-regional support" from DDB Needham, Chicago.
DDB's Mexico City office also handles the national market, and DM9, SÌo Paulo, handles Brazil. A-B expects to name an Argentine agency by April.
MILLER IN BRAZIL
Miller do Brasil, Miller's 50-50 joint venture with Cervejaria Brahma, started in October and may market and distribute Miller Genuine Draft beer starting this spring, with ads by Almap/ BBDO, SÌo Paulo. "We expect to look at other markets in Latin America, but Brazil is the largest," said Mike Hennick, director of international communications.
Brahma also produces its own beer in Argentina and Venezuela, which may allow Miller to reach those markets and Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile and Bolivia.
Moving more slowly is Adolph Coors Co., hoping to begin exporting its Coors and Coors Light brands to Brazil and Mexico this year, with plans to reach Argentina, Paraguay and Chile within two years. As with Miller, marketing plans and agencies haven't been settled for new markets.
The onset of U.S. beers has many local brands revising their strategies. The dominance of Brazil's Brahma and Antarctica-fortified with Miller and A-B brands-may be discouraging to Brazil's Cervejaria Kaiser, now reevaluating its strategy handled by Duailibi, Petit, Zaragoza, SÌo Paulo.
The entrance of U.S. brands, and imports like Brahma and German brewer Isenbeck, doesn't go down smoothly in Argentina. Cerveceria & Malteria Quilmes is revising its Quilmes brand's advertising, by J. Walter Thompson Co., Buenos Aires.
MEXICO, CANADA REACH OUT
Mexico City's Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma has grown rapidly through a distribution exchange with Canada's Labatt Breweries. And CCM's 1995 sales rose 400% over 1994 in Brazil and 180% in Argentina.
One Canadian brewer is bypassing Latin America's biggest markets to distribute in Cuba, forbidden fruit to U.S. marketers. Molson Breweries distributes largely to Cuba's tourist bars and resorts, without marketing.
Contributing to this story: Michael J. Galetto, Buenos Aires; Claudia Penteado, Rio de Janeiro.