Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO on return to ingesting habits earlier than CovidCo

Outgoing CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev Carlos Brito told CNBC on Friday that people were eager to return to pre-pandemic drinking routines as coronavirus vaccinations picked up in the US and bars and restaurants faced fewer restrictions .

“After the vaccines were introduced, we saw some states before others and we saw how consumers reacted to this new normal,” Brito told Squawk Box. “And we saw that a lot of the new normals were just like the old normals, as people were dying to get back to old habits.”

Brito – who is stepping down July 1 after running the world’s largest brewer for 15 years – said AB InBev had adjusted its supply chain to create a “more normal balance” of bottled and draft beer in anticipation of home consumption would play a less important role.

The house had become the “hub” for life, entertainment and work all at once during the pandemic, noted Brito, praising the company for how it has responded to this change.

“Our guys in the supply chain, sales, had to be very agile and very flexible,” said Brito. “There was a big shift in the shift between channels, packaging and brands because consumers couldn’t shop in pubs and restaurants, so they had to resort to grocery stores and find their way to popular products.”

AB InBev stock is up about 50% over the past 12 months and more than 7% year to date.

Bud Light brewery has also seen the emergence of what Brito referred to as the “fourth category” of beverages, covering the crossroads of wine, beer, and cocktail beverages. Ready-to-drink cocktails are the fastest growing alcohol category, with beverage companies and industry experts predicting further growth.

“It’s an amazing category. She is growing. It addresses the specific needs of consumers, fewer calories, fewer carbohydrates, gluten-free, in many cases more coed, ”said Brito. “It’s great for us because it’s very profitable.”

Beer consumption has declined in recent years as consumers either opt for substitutes such as hard seltzer and canned cocktails, or drink less or not at all. AB InBev has added new products like Bud Light Seltzer to adapt to changing tastes.

Michel Doukeris, who serves as the company’s head of North America operations, will take over the reins of Brito. Under Brito’s leadership, he led the acquisitions of Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller, which revolutionized the company’s global presence while reducing costs.

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