Growth from beer to beyond

Call for change

Remaking merriment

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA (AB InBev) is the largest brewer in the world, wielding a portfolio of more than 500 brands that includes consumer favorites Budweiser, Corona, Brahma, Cass, Eagle Lager and Stella Artois.

In 2015, the AB InBev team saw a wave of change coming to the industry. Consumers wanted new and different things from their beverages, revealing a world of whitespace opportunities. To seize those, AB InBev knew it needed to change its approach and created ZX Ventures, a global investment and innovation group. The mandate was to nurture, support and grow the products and services of tomorrow.

When pushed to think beyond beer to spark exponential growth, ZX Ventures chose to partner with Accenture Song. Pedro Earp—who created ZX and now serves as the Chief ZX Ventures and Marketing Officer for AB InBev—says that the initial work was about reframing the opportunity.
"We realized that we’re actually in the business of bringing people together. Accenture Song helped us see that concept. To go from being a beer company to being in ‘the business of bringing people together’ freed us up to think about different ways of solving the consumer problem."

– PEDRO EARP, Chief ZX Ventures and Marketing Officer for AB InBev

When tech meets human ingenuity

New products, underserved audiences

With this inspiring vision in hand and a fast-growing team of innovators to realize it, Bionic and the ZX team partnered to discover growth Opportunity Areas (OAs) beyond beer (including non-obvious consumer problems like health and wellness and product experiences), then generated a roster of potential solutions in those OAs for the teams to pursue. Bionic entrepreneurs coached the ZX teams to run quick and cheap experiments to test whether any of those solutions had legs, and to determine which ones they should invest more time and money into before scaling the ideas.

With input from Bionic, ZX established a variety of revolutionary product domains, including casual wine (e.g. Babe Wine) and canned cocktails (e.g. Cutwater Spirits). Now confident in its ability to scope promising opportunities, ZX Ventures went on to acquire ecommerce craft beer purveyor Beer Hawk and other ecommerce platforms. It made early investments in advanced technology solutions like Pensa Systems, which measures out-of-stock and shelf compliance using drone, AI and ML technology. As the team considered possible additions to its inorganic portfolio of bets, its members always considered how the larger company’s capabilities and know-how might support and amplify startups’ early successes.

A valuable difference

Profits from diversified growth

In just a few short years, AB InBev’s growth-obsessed team has reached far beyond craft brews and beer-centric experiences. Since its launch in 2015, ZX Ventures has gone from $0 to more than $1 billion in revenue.

Much of that revenue growth has come from the sheer breadth of the company’s portfolio. Today, ZX Ventures builds, grows and invests in businesses across industries—from consumer products to technology and everything in between. Its success offers hard evidence that building a portfolio filled with dozens of bets is a sound and viable strategy. With a fleet of growth-minded teams eager to uncover and respond to fast-changing consumer needs, AB InBev is now focused on the future and poised for even more growth.

As Earp puts it, “Before I get involved with a category or company, I ask, ‘Am I going to be able to make it grow faster and better? What is my platform and what assets can I bring to bear? If I really don’t have any proprietary gifts that can help the category or company, then why get involved? We like to be in spaces where we can have a disproportionate impact.”

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