Walter joined InBev in 2002 as Labatt USA's director of wholesaler network development and went on to positions with increasing responsibilities. His previous stints include Pearce Beverage Co. and Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery. InBev USA had been called Labatt USA until the Belgian parent Interbrew merged with Brazilian beverage giant AmBev in 2004.
The move follows the acquisition of distribution rights for InBev's European brands by Anheuser-Busch. The big brewer will assume import and marketing duties starting Feb. 1 for Stella Artois, Beck's, Beck's Premier Light, Bass Pale Ale, Leffe, and Hoegaarden.
Anheuser has signed a U.S. import deal with Budejovicky Budvar, despite being embroiled with the Czech brewer in a trademark dispute. Terms were not disclosed, but the agreement does not impact the dispute, and the partnership cannot be used to support either side in any trademark case.
Czechvar Premium Czech Lager joins A-B's list of imports, including Grolsh from the Netherlands, Tiger from Singapore, and Kirin from Japan.
The deal is the latest example of the St. Louis-based brewer's aggressive push into the high-end and import beer category, whose sales are growing faster than domestic beers such as Anheuser's Budweiser and Bud Light, which is the top-selling beer in the United States.
Yesterday, A-B announced that its U.S. shipments to wholesalers had increased to 102.3 million barrels in 2006, up 1.2 percent over 2005.
"Anheuser-Busch achieved increased shipments in 2006 due to the success of its initiatives to grow core brands, led by Bud Light, and by expanding its portfolio of products including the addition of the Rolling Rock brands, and imports Grolsch and Tiger," the company said.
Anheuser-Busch Cos., Inc. will announce worldwide beer volume and consolidated earnings results for the fourth quarter and full year 2006 on Feb. 1.