Beer Industry Oligopoly

Topics: Brewing, Beer, Brewery Pages: 5 (1981 words) Published: May 1, 2005
The brewing industry was once held to competition among many breweries in small geographic areas. That was almost a century ago. The U.S. brewing industry today is characterized by the dominance of three brewers, which I will talk about in this paper. There are many factors today that make the beer industry an oligopoly. Such factors include various advancements in technology (packaging, shipping and production), takeovers and mergers, economies of scale, barriers to entry, high concentration, and many other factors that I will cover in this paper. Over the course of the paper I will try to define an oligopoly, give a brief history of the brewing industry, and finally to show how the brewing industry today is an oligopoly. Brewing Oligopoly?

The beer market has turned itself into an oligopoly in the past 100 years. Where there once were hundreds of brewers across America, there now are just a few major players in the industry. But what is an oligopoly? As defined by Ayers & Collinge in the textbook Microeconomics, "an oligopoly is characterized by multiple firms, one or more of which will produce a significant portion of industry output"(microeconomics). Oligopolies exist where a few large firms producing a homogeneous or differentiated product dominate a market. There must be few enough firms so that they are mutually interdependent, which means they must consider rival's reactions in response to decisions about prices, output, and advertising. The causes of the beer oligopoly are as followed: 1. Economies of scale exist, which indicate that a few large firms would be more efficient that many small ones. 2. A high degree of capital investment required. 3. Other barriers to entry may exist like patents, control of raw materials, large advertising budgets, and traditional brand loyalty. History of the Beer Industry

The brewing industry in the United States began in 1625 when the first brewery was founded. In the early stages the industry, competition among different breweries only existed in highly secluded small geographic areas. It was not until refrigeration and pasteurization that companies could transport beer across previous geographic limits and begin to grow into the industry it is today. After prohibition there was a sharp decline in the number of brewing companies. Almost 90% of the brewing companies from 1947 to 1995 went bankrupt. This sharp decline was mostly due to four major breweries growing rapidly and realizing economies of scale. By 1980 Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing, Pabst, and Stroh's were the main four that made up nearly 80% of the market. By the mid-nineties it was down to three major players: Coors, Miller, and Anheuser-Busch. The beer industry includes packaging manufacturers, shipping companies, agriculture, and other businesses who depend on brewing. The American brewing industry employs approximately 1.66 million Americans today. There are generally three tiers of beer suppliers in the United States: domestic giants like Anheuser-Busch and Miller, importers, and craft brewers. The Beer Industry Today

In this paper I will be talking about the U.S. beer industry and in short an overview of the brewing industry worldwide. I will talk about the barriers to entry, economies of scale, government intervention, pricing, current market trends, product differentiation, and imports. The focus being mainly on the U.S. brewing industry oligopoly. The U.S. brewing industry has three major players: Anheuser-Busch, SAB Miller, and Coors/Molson. Anheuser-Busch is currently the largest brewer in the world, producing over 100 million barrels a year. Anheuser-Busch currently owns over 50% of the market in the United States, with Miller trailing behind at 20% and Coors at about 11% with the rest of the market occupied by imports and craft breweries. When analyzing any industry, how easy it is for newcomers to enter the market is a great importance. If there are high barriers to entry due to...
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