BELGIUM – Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), the largest brewer in the world, has invested €31m (US$34m) in upgrading its Belgian breweries in Hoegaarden, Leuven and Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, to expand its non-alcoholic beer portfolio.

The investment will include optimization of a new de-alcoholizing system used to make Corona Cero, an alcohol-free version of Mexican lager Corona which launched in 10 European markets last year (Belgium, Finland, France, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the UK).

It will go a long way in helping expand the portfolio of non-alcoholic beers and improve the bottling capacity.

Many of the alcohol-free brewing techniques AB InBev developed itself at its Global Innovation and Technology Centre (GITEC) in Leuven, the company said.

For example, the brewing giant discovered a process to extract alcohol from regular beer. Previously, brewers stopped fermentation before alcohol formation, but that caused a bigger taste disparity.

Belgium is one of AB InBev’s top producers of 0.0% ABV beer brands. Alongside Corona Cero, AB InBev brews another six non-alcoholic beers in the country: including options from Hoegaarden and Leffe.

“The no-alcohol beers of today are much different from what was available years ago,” said David De Schutter, Global Vice President of GITEC.

“The innovative methods and technology developed by our brewers and researchers are creating the next generation of refreshing, great tasting, no-alcohol beers for people to enjoy on any occasion.”

Globally, non-alcoholic beer is one of the industry’s fastest-growing beer categories, and AB InBev has a portfolio of 30 brands available in 42 countries.

The investment cements the presence of AB InBev in the fastest-growing category that is projected by Global Market Insights to depict more than 5.5% CAGR through 2023-2032, given the rising consumer preference for healthy beverages.

Florida governor calls for probe into AB InBev’s conduct

Shifting focus on AB InBev’s operations in the USA, Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, wants Florida’s pension system to investigate whether AB InBev, the company that makes Bud Light, “breached legal duties” to shareholders. Florida’s pension funds have about US$46 million in AB InBev shares.

DeSantis sent a letter to the State Board of Administration, which oversees Florida’s US$235 billion in pension investments, asking the agency to “immediately initiate a review to examine how AB InBev’s conduct has impacted and continues to impact the value” of Florida’s shares in the company.

The governor told Fox News host Jesse Watters that AB InBev didn’t follow its “fiduciary duty to do the best you can for your shareholders” and a lawsuit could be filed on behalf of Florida pension fund shareholders.

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