An interesting tidbit out of St. Louis tickled my tongue the other day. It was a dispatch from the Post-Dispatch noting that Anheuser-Busch was rolling toward its 16th straight quarter of earnings-per-share growth. Sixteen in a row? The Cardinals would love that.

Obviously, the beer drinkers of the world don't pay much attention to what Wall Street does. That's well and good for "The King of Beers," but I want to know why they are so successful. A portfolio manager in St. Louis points to the company being "unbelievably focused," so much that its stock increased by seven percent last year while the Dow was dropping like a stone to the tune of 17 percent with its worst yearly decline in 25 years.

Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer's Insights, a trade publication, says that Anheuser-Busch doesn't wait around doing nothing too often. "They come up with something very hot, drop it, and move onto the next thing before it gets stale."

In fact, the company, which turned 150 last year, was still successful even when for the first time in 142 years, someone other than a Busch or Anheuser family member was in day-to-day control (Patrick Stokes), although August Busch 3d remains chairman.

By the way, Anheuser-Busch now has about half the U.S. market and in the past two dozen years, its market share has doubled.

For this year, the company is projecting a 12 percent sales growth because it recognizes that beer-industry volume is driven more by demographics than the economy. In other words, they know how to focus. And if you consider that the number of beer drinkers ages 21 to 27 will increase, Anheuser-Busch expects volume to rise 1 percent to 1.5 percent annually throughout the decade.

What's also helped tremendously is its marketing plan, which has made

household names and commercial stars of a dog named Spuds McKenzie, lifelike frogs croaking "Bud-Weis-Er," and dudes asking, "Whasssssup?"

"The marketing is where they've been quite creative," says Steinman, "and that's what wins in the beer business."

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