Bloomberg / Getty Images

The company is trying to woo craft-beer lovers.

May 17, 2017

Beer lovers have made a strong case for craft brews—and it shows in declining sales for big beer companies, such as Anheuser-Busch. The behemoth behind Budweiser and Bud Light has suffered falling sales of up to 1.5 percent each year for the last several years, which, for a company with over $47 billion dollars a year in sales, adds up to big bucks. So to get back on track, Anheuser-Busch will try to "freshen" up its beer. Literally. The beer giant it announced this week, it would spend targeted funds to revamp its brewing, packaging, sustainability and technology.

Anheuser-Busch InBev told reporters this week that it will invest $500 million this year in the U.S. alone USA Today reports. About $82 million of that money will go to the company's distribution facilities in Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio, where it will attempt to reduce the time between brewing its beers and shipping them out. And with a reduction in time, there should be an increase in freshness, the company says.

Last year, IBISWorld analysts wrote that "major brands have struggled to maintain relevance among many U.S. consumers, who have transitioned away from lagers and light American-style pilsners in favor of craft beer styles." That's in part, some say, because the beers that come from smaller breweries often taste fresher. Anheuser-Busch hopes these facility renovations will give its beers a fresher, fighting chance.

Anheuser-Busch plans to also drop a cool $28 million to update its brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, which will allow it to dry-hop beer. Dry-hopping, adding hops after the initial brewing process and the cooling of the wort—adds both aroma and flavor to beer. Grubstreet says we don't know which beers will receive a dry-hop treatment, but it won't be the company's staples, Budweiser or Bud Light.

USA Today cites market-research that shows craft breweries are booming: they've increased in number across the country from just 963 in 2010 to a whopping 4,414 in 2017. And Anheuser-Busch knows it's time to keep up, even amid other attempts to cut back its costs, which have included promises to shed more than 20,000 jobs.

"The market continues to be very competitive and much more fragmented," Anheuser-Busch CEO João Castro Neves said this week. "We're making those investments to cope with all this additional complexity."