Stella Artois loses ‘import’ status as Anheuser-Busch moves production to U.S.
Long known as a product of Belgium, premium beer brand Stella Artois will soon lose its “import” status and be manufactured in the United States, as parent company Anheuser-Busch rolls out a major $1 billion, two-year domestic investment across its portfolio that’s aimed at stimulating the American economy.
Under the terms of the arrangement, Stella’s bottling will first shift to St. Louis this summer with cans and draught production transitioning before the end of 2021. Four existing Anheuser-Busch breweries are slated for long-term upgrades to handle the increase in volume, with facilities in Los Angeles, Newark and Jacksonville, Fla., joining the company’s St. Louis flagship in taking on the brand’s manufacture.
In addition, AB is set to invest a further $296 million in Stella’s domestic distribution over the next two years.
“Throughout the pandemic, our advanced planning and proactive actions have put our U.S. supply chain in a strong position; however, we are subject to the instability of the international supply chain when it comes to some of our imports,” says Brendan Whitworth, AB’s chief sales officer in the U.S.
The large-scale investment in Stella will “help create and sustain jobs” across the country, Whitworth adds, while cutting more than 7,000 metric tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere annually, which is in line with the company’s 2025 Sustainability Goals.
Stella Artois is the world’s fourth-largest imported beer and easily ranks as the most significant such brand under St. Louis-based AB’s corporate umbrella, which is more well-known for its portfolio of domestic beers such as Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.
“For more than 165 years, Anheuser-Busch has played an important role in strengthening the American economy and making a positive impact across the country in the communities in which they call home, especially in our state of Missouri,” says Gov. Mike Parson.
The manufacturing shift of one of AB’s top premium labels signals that the brewing giant may be placing more emphasis on the beer’s centuries-old history than on its origin, echoing a trend that other once-foreign beer brands have implemented over the past two decades.
Several well-known “imports,” from AB’s best-known German brand Beck’s to supposed Australian favorite Foster’s by MillerCoors, have been produced in the U.S. for years, with many marketers opting to put the magnifying glass on those beers’ taste or heritage instead of their origin.
It remains to be seen whether the move will boost Stella, which has faced an ongoing year-over-year sales decline since its 2017 peak of 2.7 million barrels, according to estimates from Beer Marketer's Insights. While the brand’s drops were moderate in 2018 and 2019, it faced a steep drop-off in early 2020 with the onset of the pandemic—a fate met by many other major beer brands.