"We invest a lot in our people. One example is Ambev University, whereby we continually educate our people, offering courses and seminars that span all levels. It offers scholarships to undergraduate and post-graduate studies and training in sales, supply, marketing, operations, logistics, administrative, financial, and so on. "
DANIELLA GIAVINA-BIANCHI: Ambev brands (Skol, Brahma and Antarctica) rank at the top of the Best Brazilian Brands 2013. What is the importance of this recognition for Ambev? What strategic actions are being taken so that these positions are not only maintained but also improved?
RICARDO ROLIM: This recognition makes Ambev even stronger. It shows that we have an excellent portfolio, well-defined territories and consistent messages. Innovation is in our DNA. Ambev has always responded quickly to market conditions and we have brought to Brazilian consumers several innovations aimed at different audiences and consumption occasions. There is a lot of research behind everything we do. Each region of the country has a unique culture that demands different products and strategies.
The transformation that took place with Brazilian consumers in recent years shows that there is still no clear path to follow. Yet, this is more of an opportunity than a problem for Ambev, since we constantly renew our plants with machinery capable of working with various types of packaging at the same time.
Moreover, since we want to build a better world, we work with our brands on projects and actions that benefit Brazilian society. Brahma, for example, launched the campaign “Alegria no Pé, Floresta de Pé” or “Happy Feet while the Forest Stands” in English. In partnership with the Brazilian Institute for Ecological Research, the brand preserves 100 trees for every goal scored in the Brazilian Championship. In 2013, the action also happened during the FIFA Confederations Cup and will also take place during the 204 FIFA World Cup.
Another good example is the project “Bom de Samba” or “Good at Samba” by our brand Antarctica. This campaign celebrates Brazilian music and democratizes the population's access to good quality music with free concerts by major artists.
DG: What would Skol, Brahma, and Antarctica need to do to become global brands? What are their main challenges?
RR: Ambev has operations in 16 countries across Latin and North America. As in Brazil, where we are market leaders, our local brands in other countries are also highly preferred by consumers. Therefore, in addition to strong brands here in Brazil, we also have highly relevant brands in other markets. At the moment, we have no projection for brands like Skol and Antarctica to become global. However, Brahma is present within one of the largest sports event in the world, the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
DG: Budweiser is also one of the major sponsors of the World Cup. What led Budweiser to become a sponsor of an event like this?
RR: Budweiser is now the most valuable beer brand in the world. It’s present globally in a relevant manner. We have been partners with FIFA for 27 years and had to take part in an event as epic as the World Cup in Brazil. All of our efforts are aimed at connecting Budweiser with our audience in moments of optimism and celebration. We will have several activations during the World Cup with Budweiser, as a global sponsor, and Brahma, a brand that connects with football and with the happiness of the Brazilian people.
DG: Tell us a little about the corporate brand strategy. How does Ambev ensure relevance and differentiation in competitive markets?
RR: Since our establishment 13 years ago, we’ve defined our dream: to be the best beer company in the world in a better world. To get there, we built a well-defined and consistent sustainability platform based on three concepts: Environment, Responsible Consumption, and Community.
Ambev Recycles, for example, is a program to encourage the recycling of post-consumer packaging. We also developed the first 100 percent-recycled plastic bottle. Thanks to this pioneering technology, today any plastic packaging, regardless of size, shape, or color, can be turned into a new bottle. Last year alone, over 120 million plastic bottles were removed from the environment.
When it comes to responsible consumption, we are educating consumers about responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages. Since 2003, when we first sat down with WHO to address this issue, we created the Ambev Responsible Consumption Program. One of our latest projects is the Family Chat, an initiative to help parents and educators talk about the use of alcohol with their children and students.
At the community level, Ambev helps develop strategic sectors of their market. One example is the Movement for a Better Football, in which we articulate a system of benefits for football fans, which also generates revenue for football clubs. Our brand Skol 360 participated in Rio I Love it and I Take Care of It, a project to improve the beaches in Rio de Janeiro.
DG: How is the connection established between the Ambev brand and the product brands?
RR: We continually invest in market research, trend studies, and innovation. Today, our brands are cited as the most admired and preferred by Brazilians. But this is only possible because we maintain strict international processes of quality control in all our production lines. We always offer products according to the expectations of Brazilians and consumer spending habits.
Also, one of the secrets that helps us maintain market leadership is to always surprise our consumers with new products, beverages and packaging. We are restless and always looking to offer products that suit many different profiles of consumers, who are increasingly demanding.
DG: Tell us about the relationship between Ambev and AB InBev (parent company Anheuser Busch InBev). How does this connection work?
RR: Today, our business model is global. It is widespread throughout the functional chain in Brazil and in our overseas operations. Anheuser Busch InBev also adopts this model. Every group is aligned with the same management system. A goal established by our overall board is deployed to all countries where the company operates. This ensures the alignment of all areas and stimulates the integrated work between people and areas of the company.
Our management model assumes transparency, ethics, and international cooperation in achieving results. At Ambev, throughout our entire global network, people have the opportunity to grow—and can go as far as their talents will take them. When we reach a goal, we celebrate victories and recognize those who have helped us earn them, but always with an eye on the next challenge.
DG: Ambev is known in the corporate world for having a very strong and unique culture. What are the main challenges it faces as it pushes for growth globally?
RR: Today, we are present in 16 countries and employ over 46,000 people. This whole team is aligned with the guidelines of our three pillars: Dream, People, and Culture. We dream big. We want to be the best beverage company in the world, and helps make it a better world. Our culture is strong, well defined, transparent, and simple. And our people are our main asset.
Due to the local culture of each country in which we operate, the way of running the business is not exactly the same in Brazil and Canada, for instance, but it should be as similar as possible. The most important thing is to have a consolidated culture and engaged local team. Our management practices and operating instructions should be followed, wherever we are present. We do not take shortcuts, for example. This is valid everywhere we operate.
In the process of internationalization, we count on our employees to be the true ambassadors of our culture. It makes us very happy to see people from our team looking for more challenges in Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI), the brewing group to which we belong. About 100 company executives currently occupy leadership positions in ABI and lead our management team globally.
We invest a lot in our people. One example is Ambev University, whereby we continually educate our people, offering courses and seminars that span all levels. It offers scholarships to undergraduate and post-graduate studies and training in sales, supply, marketing, operations, logistics, administrative, financial, and so on. In 2012 alone, for instance, USD $30.6 million was invested in our corporate university.