On September 18 the Brewers Association (BA) submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning the agency’s revised draft Merger Guidelines. While not binding law, for decades the Merger Guidelines have guided FTC and Department of Justice (DOJ) decisions on when to challenge proposed mergers and acquisitions.
In its comments, the BA applauds the general direction of the revised guidelines. If coupled with more rigorous enforcement by federal competition (antitrust) authorities, the policies reflected in the revised guidelines will help give small and independent businesses more opportunities to thrive in an economy that has experienced too much consolidation over the past decades. The BA’s comments document the highly consolidated nature of the supplier, wholesale, and retail tiers of the beer industry, and how consolidation trends seem to be accelerating, especially at the wholesale and retail tiers. The BA also highlights select policies reflected in the guidelines that have particular relevance to small and independent brewers.
The BA comments are part of a sustained and ongoing effort to ensure that the nation’s competition authorities hear the concerns of small and independent brewers. Those efforts include communicating concern to relevant authorities about pending mergers that could adversely impact competition in the beer market, such as the recent proposed merger of giant retail groups Kroger and Albertsons. They also include efforts to shape antitrust and competition policy, such as the 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy and the subsequent Treasury Report on Competition in the Markets for Beer, Wine, and Spirits.
The BA will continue to advocate for robust and open competition in the beer market that allows small and independent businesses space to thrive.