London’s leafy Kensington is a long way from her native Brazil. But new Budweiser Brewing Group President Paula Lindenberg is loving the change of scenery and relishing the opportunity to drive the rebranded beer giant forward, writes Eamonn Duff
Some people like to take time settling into new jobs, slowly easing their way in while acclimatising to new surroundings. Not Paula Lindenberg.
In a matter of months, Budweiser’s new UK President has swapped Brazil for Britain and hit the ground running, overseeing a significant rebrand that saw the company drop its AB InBev name. She unveiled a series of renewed targets spanning sustainability and smart drinking, while also pledging to champion Britain’s iconic beer culture through a series of trade boosting initiatives. She officially cut the ribbon on the Group’s new, state-of-the-art London headquarters. In the moments in-between, she has also somehow found time to unpack her life – and venture out into that vast English capital she now calls home. Speaking publicly for the first time about her move, she said: “London is great. I live in Kensington with my husband and two daughters who are 12 and 8, and we love spending our weekends exploring the different neighbourhoods.It is such an exciting and diverse city…it’s amazing to see so many cultures coming together.”
Prior to her arrival, Lindenberg had been with AB InBev for 18 years, progressing through a number of roles in South America and the United States, including most recently Vice President of Marketing for AmBev – AB InBev’s Brazilian business, where she was responsible for its key Latin American beer brands, including Skol, Brahma and Antarctica.
Away from beer, she’s actively involved – and has travelled extensively with – Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV), a global non-profit movement focused on educating children about other cultures and bringing people from different backgrounds together to learn from one another. “I was able to visit countries like Norway, Mexico, Sweden and Japan, and even became a team leader so I could take the younger children on similar trips,” she said, adding: “I think it’s so important to learn about other people and open yourself up to new cultures and experiences. It’s definitely helped me navigate in an organisation as big and global as this one.”
I’m hugely passionate about beer; it’s such an important part of our culture
Anheuser-Busch InBev is the world’s largest brewer, producing some of the UK’s best loved beers including Stella Artois, Corona, Beck’s, Bass, Boddingtons – and Budweiser. It reported 2018 global revenue growth of 4.8 percent – to more than $54.6 billion. Based in Leuven, Belgium, it has central offices dotted everywhere from New York, London and St. Louis to Mexico City, Johannesburg and São Paulo, where Lindenberg was previously based.
While her country of origin might be vastly different to her new adopted land, Lindenberg observes how beer is deeply woven into the fabric of both societies: Britain is renowned for its pub and brewing traditions, Brazil is the world’s third largest beer market and she admits she’s always been “hugely passionate” about it.
“It’s such an important part of our culture,” she explained. “For many, it’s the original social network – bringing people together as they enjoy shared experiences. This rich and varied beer culture is also clearly apparent in the UK,” she adds. “I love that seven in 10 drinks ordered in the pub here are beer. I can see similarities in the way that Brits enjoy shared experiences with friends with a beer in hand.”
Acknowledging that many of those shared moments are played out during summer months, around key events and activities, the Group has been busy adding new partnerships to its existing sponsorship portfolio. Budweiser has just been announced as the official beer of Pride in London this year. The news comes as the brewing giant launches its Fly the Flag campaign in support of Pride’s mission to champion and support every group within the LGBTQ+ community. Budweiser is also now the official beer of the England Women’s football team; Stella Artois is partnering with Wimbledon and Ascot while Corona is fighting marine plastic with a series of major beach clean-ups and plastic-free pledges.
Lindenberg said: “We have some major ambitions as a business, and I believe it’s important that our company is open, recognisable and relevant – part of which means tapping into key cultural moments with our consumers.”
In May, the Group released its results for the first quarter of 2019 and Lindenberg is naturally delighted her early work was complemented by such a strong start. “We’ve had a great first quarter, growing by high single digits,” she said. “We’ve become the second biggest brewer in the UK. I’m keen to continue this trajectory over the coming months.”
Aside from driving growth, enhancing an already diverse and inclusive workplace and operating the business sustainably, there’s another key area that Lindenberg hopes to leave her mark: the ‘smart drinking’ space. But how do you chip away and ultimately change deeply engrained social norms to reduce harmful drinking?
“Having been in the UK for several months now, I’ve really noticed a growing demand for light and no alcohol options amongst beer drinkers,” she said. “Perceptions do seem to be changing and health and wellness is at the forefront for many consumers…we’re listening to these evolving consumer preferences and providing a range of products that cater to this.”
We’ve become the second biggest brewer in the UK. I’m keen to continue this trajectory
Last year, Budweiser launched Michelob ULTRA in the UK, a light beer with 45 percent fewer calories than most premium lagers and 72 percent less than white wine. Lindenberg said the move forms part of its global Smart Drinking Goals, giving consumers more low-alcohol options. “This year, we want to accelerate towards our goal of 20 percent of our global volumes being low-or-no alcohol by 2025,” she said, adding: “We’re at around 8 percent in the UK at the moment, so we know we have some work to do, but we are committed to using our expertise and resources to make this happen.”
Lindenberg is clearly enjoying life in London – and she’s not alone with 250 employees, previously based in Luton, all now housed under the one roof at swish new premises in Farringdon. The stunning offices, which cover 25,000 square feet of flexible working space, are an integral part of the Budweiser Brewing Group makeover and long
term strategy to build a stronger corporate brand in the UK.
Lindenberg describes it as a venue where business partners, customers and stakeholders can converge, connect and collaborate. Naturally, there’s also a rooftop bar serving all of the Group’s brands. “We love having a hub in the centre of the city where we can bring people together,” she said. “We’re committed to being a diverse and inclusive workplace and recognise that when you bring together a diverse community of bold, ambitious and passionate people, the potential for growth is limitless.”