AB InBev’s latest acquisition isn’t a U.S. or international craft brewery, for once—it’s one of the U.K.’s largest online whiskey retailers. According to Forbes, global mega-giant alcohol consortium AB InBev has purchased U.K.-based The Atom Group for an undisclosed sum. The Atom Group is the parent company of three separate whiskey companies—bottler Boutique-y Whisky, distributor Maverick Drinks and online whiskey retailer Master of Malt. The purchase was conducted through AB InBev’s “disruptive growth” arm, ZX Ventures, the same company that purchased the Northern Brewer homebrewing supply website in the U.S., along with a minority stake in beer rating site RateBeer.
Of the three, the crown jewel is Master of Malt, a vendor that sells a variety of whiskey (with an emphasis on U.K. products) to customers all over the globe. That globe just got a bit smaller, however—as a result of their new ownership, Master of Malt will no longer be able to ship whiskey to the U.S. This is of course an outcome of the U.S. three tier system of alcohol distribution, which will prevent the AB InBev-owned company from also functioning as a distributor in the U.S. For the consumer, it means reduced access to U.K. spirits, although competitor sites such as The Whisky Exchange will surely be attempting to capitalize on the opportunity by filling the niche.
In response to the buyout, the owners read off the typical AB InBev acquisition checklist: We’re still in control, nothing will change, this will allow us to grow, etc.
“We came here to change the game and I think now we’re supercharged to do so,” said Michael Vachon, co-founder of Maverick Drinks. “Practically speaking, nothing is changing from our end… except growth. No changes in management, no changes to our portfolio, and (most importantly) absolutely no changes to the way we work.”
Master of Malt, meanwhile, said pretty much exactly the same thing on their own blog: “We are not going to change a single thing about what we do or how we do it. Not our people, not the way we do business, not our mission, not our values. We’re just going to be able to do it all faster because we’ve got a global partner in our corner who really believes in what we’re doing. ZX invests in businesses that it believes are doing things right, and have incredible potential to grow.”
Another series of companies swallowed up by the goliath of the alcohol industry. It’s just business as usual for AB InBev and its singular mission—always be growing.