Budweiser banned in Delhi after SABMiller, now owned by AB InBev, is accused of faking barcodes

  • The world’s largest beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev is banned from the capital city for three years over tax evasion.
  • SABMiller which was acquired by the Belgium’s AB InBev in 2016, was caught trying to duplicate barcodes on its beer bottles.
  • AB InBev denied the allegations and said that they will co-operate with the process, and look forward to present their view.

Budweiser beer might disappear from Delhi bars and shops, as its maker has incurred the government’s wrath. The world’s largest beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) is banned from India’s capital city for three years over tax evasion, says a Reuters report.


SABMiller, which was acquired by the Belgium’s AB InBev in 2016, was caught trying to duplicate barcodes on its beer bottles, which allowed it to pay lesser levies.


The report also says that two orders were passed by the Delhi city authority which wants to blacklist the beer maker for its discrepancies. As per the order, no fresh beer can be supplied in the city.


Three years back, a random inspection revealed at a posh bar in Delhi found 12 beer bottles with barcodes, that as per records should be lying in the company warehouse. Since then, a detailed investigation revealed that it had duplicated barcodes multiple times.


A legacy issue


AB InBev denied the allegations and said that they will co-operate with the process, and look forward to present their view.


“This order relates to operations of the legacy company dating back to 2016, prior to our takeover. After we took control, we have discontinued our relationship with the vendor that managed the relevant Delhi warehouse and are taking steps to enhance our systems,” a company spokesperson said in a statement, while mentioning that the order relates to 12 bottles at one bar.


Growing Beer market


The matter came to the fore when beer bottles with duplicated barcodes were supplied to the same restaurant, twice. This ban, if not appealed against, will be a big blow to the beer company as Delhi is one of its biggest markets, bar culture is picking up amongst millennials.


This is not the first time that beer makers have had a run in with the government. Last year, all the top three sellers—United Breweries, Carlsberg and AB InBev were investigated by Competition Commission of India for colluding to fix prices of beer, as a cartel.


The top three players account for 90% of beer sales in India, which is known to be a $7 billion industry. AB InBev is the second biggest seller in the Indian beer market with a 17.5% market share, after United Breweries.


In the last five years, the beer industry has been growing at 8% per annum. The super premium beer segment is growing at a healthy 30%, according to an annual report by United Breweries.


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