The premium lager is produced by Peroni, a one-time Italian family firm which is currently owned by SABMiller. It is up for sale to help win regulatory approval for the London-based group's proposed $121 billion takeover by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
AB Inbev announced on Wednesday that Asahi had offered €2.55 billion ($2.85 billion) to acquire Peroni and the Grolsch and Meantime brands.
“Given that it has been a decade since Peroni was in the hands of the family, it's better it is being bought by Asahi, which is a very good brewer, than by an investment fund which would only have had a speculative interest,” said Giorgio Zasio, 74.
“The important thing is that the company and those who work for it can look to the future with confidence.”
Nastro Azzuro was first created in 1963 but was not an immediate hit, Zasio revealed in an interview with Italian daily La Stampa.
“It was very different from the current beer, it was too strong and not at all well received by our customers. We spent two years restyling it, changing the face of Nastro Azzuro, making it less bitter and reducing the alcohol level.”
Nastro Azzuro, which means “blue riband” in Italian, is still produced exclusively in Italy and is exported to more than 50 countries around the world.
The light-coloured lager weighs in at 5.1 percent alcohol by volume and owes its distinct taste to the unusual mix of grains used to produce it: three quarters barley to one quarter nostrano maize, a proprietary variety produced for Peroni in the Po plain of northern Italy.
The sale of Peroni and the other brands to Asahi will only go through if the AB Inbev-SABMiller tie up is finalized, the companies said.