For a couple of months now, rumors about Redbridge gluten-free beer being discontinued by Anheuser-Busch have been floating around cyberspace. Gluten-Free Living even blogged about it, saying the company reported that rumors about Redbridge beer being discontinued were unfounded. That is exactly the news that the company reported to myself and many others who contacted them for the facts.
Shortly after my conversation with an Anheuser-Busch representative, I found out that all Publix stores (located in 10 states) kicked Redbridge out of their beer line up when it was redesigned in January of this year. Publix managers are happy to order in the beer as a special request, as long as it’s available from the local distributor. The local distributor in this area stated in February that they have no plans to drop the beer. However, several other large distributors did choose to drop the beer, reportedly due to poor sales in their areas.
Since many Redbridge fans have been complaining that their stores don’t carry the beer anymore, I’ve stayed in touch with Anheuser-Busch regarding the situation. The company continued to report the beer was not being discontinued, period. They added that that several distributors did choose not to offer the beer anymore, which is totally out of their control. Then finally, after seeing another listserv post about Redbridge possibly being dropped by Anheuser-Busch, I contacted the company yet again.
The representative I spoke to the last time confirmed that the beer is being taken out of circulation for the time being, due to it being reformulated. They stated that the beer now has too high an alcohol content to be sold in every state. The reformulated beer, so they said, would be around 4% alcohol and therefore can be sold in all 50 states. It is currently around 4.7% alcohol. I can only report what the company is saying, but that sounds like some of the strangest news I’ve heard in a while.
Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain a time line for this new reformulated beer to re-enter the market. If the corporate communications office (apparently the only department that know the time line for the reformulation) gets back to me with that information, I will update this post. For now, Redbridge will no longer be available for local distributors to buy and resell it to consumers. Anheuser-Busch is owned by a European company and many changes have occurred since the takeover. In the past, when Anheuser-Busch discontinued a product, they didn’t shout it from the roof tops. It would seem odd at this point for the company to claim they are reformulating the beer if that is not really what’s happening. However, by the time the new beer enters the marketplace (if it ever does), there is a good chance some Redbridge fans would have converted over to something like Bard’s Tale.
There are some in our community that think companies make products for us to be nice. That is the case with small companies that started out of a need in a family with one or more celiacs in it. The list of those fine companies is too long to list here. But large companies like General Mills and Anheuser-Busch are entering the market to make money, as well they should. The problem is that such companies are not going to keep products around if they are not profitable enough. What deems something profitable enough at a large company is quite different than that same at a small company.
Anheuser-Busch might have overestimated the size of the gluten-free beer market. Not every person who can’t eat gluten is a beer lover, after all. Maybe Bard’s Tale will take advantage of this great opportunity to get their exceptional gluten-free beer (my opinion) distributed more widely in the U.S. In GA, the Savannah Distributing Company drives up twice a week to stock Whole Foods and some restaurants with Bard’s Tale beer.