Analysts have pushed Anheuser-Busch to enter the high-end import and micro-brew market, which has grown far faster than the traditional golden Pilsner brands for which the St. Louis-based brewer is famous.
"Change is all around in how consumers enjoy our product," Anheuser-Busch President August Busch IV said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the move. "Our company is embracing these changes."
The deal will become effective in January, 2007, and will give Netherlands-based Grolsch access to Anheuser-Busch's national distribution system of 600 beer wholesalers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but an Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman said Anheuser-Busch will not take any ownership of Grolsch.
Busch said the deal with Grolsch will not be the last of its kind. He said Anheuser-Busch is looking to add a "select" group of import brands to the brewer's portfolio.
Anheuser-Busch stock was trading at $41.28 a share Tuesday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange, down 22 cents from its closing price the day before.