SABMiller to enter speciality beer market

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Global brewing giant SABMiller PLC /quotes/zigman/309144 SBMRY +3.38% said Thursday it will enter the high growth market of specialty beers, where its main competitors Belgian Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI.BT) and Dutch Heineken NV (HEIA.AE) are already active, with a distribution agreement with the Belgian Van Steenberge Brewery.

“As the European market for specialty beers grows around 20%, we will initially introduce the St Stefanus beer on the European market in countries such as France, the UK, Italy and Spain,” SABMiller’s managing director for Europe, Alan Clark, told Dow Jones Newswires.

SABMiller said, within the terms of the agreement, it will distribute the beer under the Sint Stefanus brand outside Belgium.

The company is not yet active in the specialty beer market, unlike its peer ABInBev which owns Leffe beer or Heineken’s Affligem.

“Europeans drink less beer, but indulge themselves more with special, pricier beers, which explains why this is an attractive segment for us” Clark said.

The distribution is not so much aimed at driving SABMiller’s European volumes but is seen as a revenue opportunity,” said Clark.

“In addition, it will also improve our position in our sales channels as we will be able to offer a broader range of products to specialty liquor stores as well as bars,” he added.

The head of SABMiller’s European operations declined to comment or provide financial details.