The TOP 100 Beverage Companies


Barring a massive merger, the major beverage companies that occupy the Top 10 slots on Beverage Industry’s annual Top 100 list tend to hold their positions year after year. The same is true for 2006. But while Coca-Cola Co. and Nestlé SA retained the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, the Top 10 saw some movement.
InBev unseated Diageo by coming in third; Diageo, which placed third on the 2005 list, moved to seventh place in 2006. Anheuser-Busch repeated last year’s appearance in the No. 4 spot, but its closest competitor, SABMiller, was bumped down to the sixth position by import beer leader Heineken NV. Heineken’s fifth-place finish was thanks to tremendous gains it experienced in 2006 due to the successful introduction of its Heineken Premium Light extension.
Anheuser-Busch’s status as the leading U.S. domestic brewery, InBev’s strong performance during the last two years, and the two companies’ working relationship has many industry watchers speculating on a possible merger in the near future. The two already have worked together on InBev’s sale of Rolling Rock to Anheuser-Busch, and an agreement for Anheuser-Busch to distribute a number of InBev’s import brands.
SABMiller, Diageo, PepsiCo, Pernod-Ricard and Starbucks round out the Top 10. All of those beverage-makers appeared in the 2005 Top 10, as well, with the exception of Starbucks. The Seattle-based coffee giant experienced a sharp sales increase in 2006, jumping from nearly $6.4 billion in 2005 to almost $7.8 billion in 2006. That helped vault Starbucks over Kraft Foods, which moved down a spot to No. 11 on the Top 100 list.
Top 100 by categories
As beverage-makers continue to churn out new and innovative beverages, no single category can claim industry dominance. Beer and bottled water are the top two beverages produced by companies on the Top 100 list, with 23 different companies producing each. Spirits and juice aren’t far behind, with 22 beverage-makers manufacturing products in each of those categories. Nineteen of the Top 100 companies produce wine. Interestingly, soft drinks, a category that’s been on the decline in recent years, and the up-and-coming alternative beverage category are both offered by 18 companies. However, a great deal of crossover occurs as many beverage companies that produce soft drinks also manufacture bottled water, alternative beverages, juices and teas.
Number of Top 100 companies that produce:

Growing outside of CSDs
Soft drink makers are positioning themselves for a future that lies beyond the core category’s flat and declining sales. The CSD category’s two major players, The Coca-Cola Co. (No. 1 on the Top 100) and PepsiCo (No. 8 on the Top 100), are expanding their portfolios by acquiring smaller, up-and-coming alternative beverage companies — a trend that’s re-igniting the rivalry between the soft drink giants.
Coca-Cola made the latest move with its agreement to acquire No. 38 on the Top 100, Glacéau, the maker of the Vitaminwater, for $4.1 billion. The Glacéau deal comes on the heels of Coca-Cola’s acquisition of Fuze Beverage (No. 62 on the Top 100) earlier this year.
In addition to buying smaller companies, Coca-Cola also is making distribution deals to help the company bolster its image as a provider of healthier products. It just announced an agreement with No. 40 on the Top 100, Campbell Soup Co., to distribute V8 and Campbell’s juices.  
PepsiCo made two non-CSD acquisitions in 2006. It purchased Izze Beverage Co. (No. 92) in September 2006, a maker of all-natural, sparkling fruit juices. In November, PepsiCo followed that move with the acquisition of No. 56, Naked Juice Co., a leader in the superpremium juice category. PepsiCo also is involved in distribution deals; it renewed an alliance with Ocean Spray (No. 28) last year to market, bottle and distribute single-serve cranberry juice products across a number of retail channels.
Crafts, imports provide boost
The rise in import and craft beers is a bright spot amid overall beer category sales declines of the past few years, with each surging as much as 10 percent in 2005 and 2006.
As a result, mainstream brewers, including industry leaders Anheuser-Busch (No. 4), SAB Miller (No. 6) and Molson Coors (No. 12), are staking claims in these hot categories. All are either renewing their push behind existing import and craft brands, launching new beers or acquiring smaller brands and/or U.S. distribution rights for import beers.
Anheuser-Busch led the way in 2006, becoming the exclusive U.S. importer of several of InBev’s (No. 3) premium European imports, including Stella Artois, Beck’s and Bass Pale Ale — a move that came on the heels of similar deals with Holland’s Grolsch brand and Singapore’s Tiger Beer. Anheuser-Busch also owns a 50 percent stake in No. 16, Grupo Modelo, the maker of Corona.
SAB Miller’s 2006 import efforts included a merger with Grupo Empresarial Bavaria, the second largest brewer in South America. In the United States, SAB’s Miller Brewing Co. placed renewed focus on both its Peroni and Pilsner Urquel imports, and the Leinenkugel’s craft brand. Miller invested $50 million in a global brand campaign for Peroni, a premium Italian beer. Miller’s Leinenkugel’s push included expanded distribution for the craft brand, which is primarily sold in the Upper Midwest, but can now be found in 42 states.
A blockbuster performance
The Heineken NV (No. 5 on the Top 100) family of beer brands welcomed a new member in 2006, Heineken Premium Light, and it already has become a star performer. Last year, the Heineken brand grew 11.8 percent, its best annual growth figure since the 1980s, far exceeding the company’s forecast. That was driven largely by its U.S. business, where Heineken Premium Light made the biggest impact and helped lift sales of Heineken Lager, as well.
Sustainability for the future
Earlier this year, PepsiCo, No. 8 on the Top 100, made “green” history with a landmark purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs), which matches the purchased electricity used by all PepsiCo U.S.-based manufacturing facilities, headquarters, distribution centers and regional offices. Green power is produced from renewable resources, such as solar or wind power, and purchasing RECs helps drive the development of additional renewable energy capacity nationwide.
Also showing industry strides in conservation, The Coca-Cola Co., No. 1 on the Top 100, pledged to lead its global beverage operations, including those of its franchise bottlers, to replace the water it uses in its beverages and its production. Coca-Cola will focus its actions in three core areas: reducing the water used to produce its beverages, recycling water used for beverage manufacturing processes, and replenishing water in communities and nature.
New name, new outlook
In 2006, Jim Beam Brands Worldwide Inc. changed its name to Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc., No. 22 on the Top 100. The move is more than just semantics — it’s a new identity. Last year, the Deerfield, Ill.-based spirits company finalized its acquisition of a number of former Allied Domecq brands.
The acquisition transformed the company into the world’s fourth-largest spirits firm, up from seventh position in global rankings; doubled its revenue from $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion; tripled its number of top-100 premium spirits worldwide; and shifted sales from being predominantly U.S.-based to a more global focus. Its distribution is now split 50/50 between the United States and the rest of the world.
Absolut sale
One of the most buzzed about stories in the spirits industry is the impending sale of Sweden’s Vin & Spirit (V&S), the maker of Absolut vodka and spirits brands including Plymouth Gin and Cruzan Rum. No. 26 on the Top 100, V&S is wholly owned by the Swedish government, which plans to sell it and several other state-owned firms as part of a privatization push.
The Swedish parliament is expected to vote on the V&S sale this month, and while details of how the sale will proceed are still undecided, a recent survey indicated that 57 percent of Swedes would be interested in buying shares of V&S if the Swedish government decided to list it on the stock market.
However, private equity firms also are in the mix, as are a number of beverage industry competitors. While Pernod Ricard (No. 9) and Bacardi (No. 18) have been mentioned as possible buyers, published reports indicate that Fortune Brands, the parent company of Beam Global, is a front-runner in the V&S acquisition race. Fortune and V&S operate together in the United States under a partnership dating back to 2001. Industry analysts speculate that V&S could sell for as much as $6 billion.
Going (algae) green
With a green facility, an on-staff sustainability specialist and processes designed to conserve water and other natural resources, environmentally friendly practices are a way of life for No. 65 on the Top 100, Fort Collins, Colo.-based New Belgium Brewing Co. In fact, in 1998, it became the country’s first brewery to subscribe to wind energy. Employees not only voted for wind energy, they dipped into their bonus pool to finance the conversion.
Now, New Belgium is taking green practices to the next level. The brewery is partnering with a neighboring energy start-up, Solix Biofuels Inc., which is researching ways to make biodiesel fuel from algae: Solix believes it can use algae to produce oil, and is studying how to do so on a large and fast enough scale to be commercially viable. New Belgium is providing the project’s CO2, which is a byproduct of fermentation and boiler operations; it produces about 5,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, according to a report in the Rocky Mountain News.
Jonesing for football
Next season, Seattle Seahawks fans who work up a thirst cheering on the team will be reaching for a Jones Soda. No. 81 on the Top 100, the small Seattle-based company acquired the soft-drink rights at Qwest Field, marking the first time a National Football League team has entered into such a deal with a beverage company other than Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one of the keys to the deal was Jones Soda’s ability to place individual photos on its labels. It plans to put player and fan photos on the plastic bottles sold at Seahawks games and on glass bottles sold in Seattle-area supermarkets, creating a “trading card” marketing vehicle for both Jones and the Seahawks.
Jones will sell fountain drinks and soda in plastic bottles at the stadium, as well as providing canned soft drinks in its luxury suites, as part of its five-year deal with the team. While the company is known for its offbeat flavors – such as Turkey & Gravy soda, which is released annually around Thanksgiving – it will offer at least six flavors at Qwest Field, including newly developed cola and diet cola flavors.