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Anheuser-Busch International's longing for a bigger taste of the growing Central American market is prompting the company to move to greatly increased presence and more Budweiser advertising there.

A-B, which for years worked with food distributors in most of the area, is forming joint ventures with local brewers and starting to control its own advertising in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. It's also linking with a brewer in Honduras, a country where A-B never before had distribution.

"We are interested in every country in Latin America," said Robert Gunthner, VP-Americas region. "There are big growth opportunities in the beer business because, in general, they have much younger populations than North America and almost without exception improving economies. As the economies improve, there is more per capita spending and that means a good future throughout Latin America."

A-B says Budweiser is already the No. 1 imported beer in sales in Central America, but the U.S.' largest beer marketer hopes partnerships with brewers will give it better distribution and marketing and more growth opportunities.

Each Central American partner is the top local brewer in each country: Cerveceria Costa Rica in Costa Rica, La Constancia in El Salvador, Cerveceria Centroamericana in Guatemala and Cerveceria Hondurena in Honduras.

A-B's latest deal will also give it a hand in advertising decisions.

In the past, A-B used CNN International as its main ad vehicle, but now Mr. Gunthner said the company will begin adding a local media presence, though A-B won't become a major spender any time soon in any of the countries.

Mr. Gunthner said A-B will use advertising originally aimed at U.S. Hispanics, most created by Castor Advertising, New York. But A-B will let the local agency pick its messages, customize advertising and do local media planning.

In Costa Rica, A-B will use JBQ, San Jose; in El Salvador, Apex/ BBDO, San Salvador; in Guatemala, Cerveceria's in-house media department; and in Honduras, McCann-Erickson Centroamericana, San Pedro.

While the deal just became final Aug. 10, A-B used the recent World Cup to run its first local advertising in the countries.

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