Belgian beer culture is recognized as a world heritage by Unesco, not least thanks to our national AB InBev pride. At the head of that brewer, who has grown into a huge multinational, is a Brazilian: Carlos Brito.
You have grown with your company. After you started with the Brazilian Brahma, after a number of mergers and acquisitions you ended up with the new AmBev and later AB InBev. In your opinion, what type of leader does a company need to become, as AB InBev, as a challenger the number one worldwide?
“AB InBev is indeed the largest brewer in the world, a company that can boast a particularly rich heritage and has a global portfolio of quality products. Our employees have played the most important role in this, and that is no different today. Not only am I passionate about this, but all our leaders play a very important role in the recruitment process: we want to identify, attract, retain and grow the most promising people. People who can ultimately be better than ourselves. “
AB InBev staff consists of a huge mix of nationalities and cultures. How do you manage to get the noses of all those different people in the same direction?
“We are one company, we work as one team, with one culture. All our employees strive for the same dream: bringing people together for a better world thanks to our products, brands and investments in the communities. Working at AB InBev is not just a job, it is part of life. Our people get their energy from our shared dream. In order to realize this dream, we demand an entrepreneurial mentality from all our people: that they think as an owner, so that they are guided by results. They have an eye for both the long and the short term. We want to create an environment where people think day after day: “This is our company and every decision I take here will also be felt within ten or fifteen years”.
The company recently launched very ambitious sustainability targets. The same goes for the objective of purchasing electricity from renewable sources by 2025 only. Why is that so important?
“Beer is brewed with natural ingredients and we depend on a healthy environment and thriving communities. Our ingredients are pure and few in number: barley, hops, water and yeast. It is therefore important that we monitor our natural resources in a sustainable way. If we do not, we risk losing the raw materials that make our beers so special. We are also convinced that sustainability is a catalyst for innovation. We purchase locally, brew locally and sell through our companies worldwide, which means that the solutions we provide contribute positively to the communities in which we operate and deliver measurable results. “
By 2025, low- or non-alcoholic beer products should account for 20 percent of our global beer volume.
Do you think that multinationals have the same responsibility as national governments when it comes to global problems such as climate change?
“Policy signals from the government can help to shift to low-carbon solutions, but this is not enough to bring about the necessary progress. We are convinced that we can play a role in this through cooperation in industry and our scale as a major energy consumer. Sustainability is more than a matter related to our activities, it is also our responsibility. Consumers increasingly demand that the brands they buy engage in sustainability. We are optimistic about the role we play in this. We want to use the momentum in the private sector to tackle climate change. However, we can not live up to our sustainability objectives alone. We strive for cooperation with local authorities, NGOs, universities and innovators to tackle some of the most compelling challenges that our planet faces. “
Ik ben een Braziliaan en sta aan het hoofd van een wereldwijde onderneming met Belgische roots, daar ben ik fier op.
Many Belgians consider beer, and by extension AB InBev, as a national heritage. How do you view that as a Brazilian?
“I am a Brazilian and I am the head of a worldwide company with Belgian roots. I am very proud of that. Belgium has always been a core country for us and will always be. The Belgian beer culture was recognized by Unesco, and AB InBev has helped to spread that culture around the world. Belgium is also the cradle of some of our biggest brands, such as Stella Artois and Leffe. Employment in Belgium has increased over the past three years and we continue to invest in our sites in, among others, Leuven, Jupille and Hoegaarden. We have and keep our roots in Belgium. “
The growth of standard pils beer seems to have stalled while specialty beers seem to be gaining popularity. Are specialty beers the beers of the future?
“We are convinced that there is a beer for every occasion. Our strategy to build a product portfolio that encompasses all categories enables us to respond to the different needs of the consumer and the different occasions in order to create new customer experiences and opportunities. We continuously diversify and innovate our product portfolios to offer more choice, with the same quality. We want to respond to consumer demand for a more balanced lifestyle and some of our brands also support our Smart Drinking Goals where by 2025 low- or non-alcoholic beer products should account for 20 percent of our global beer volume. In Belgium Jupiler 0.0 has an increasing success and recently we have launched Pure Blonde, a light beer that contains 50% less calories and alcohol than a standard Belgian lager. “