Brewing giant SABMiller said it had bought London-based craft beer company Meantime for an undisclosed sum, as big players eye opportunities in the fast-growing sector.

"Meantime is a pioneer in British modern craft beer, giving SABMiller an entry point into the fastest-growing segment of the UK beer market," the British-South African company said in a statement.

SABMiller, which owns major global brands like Pilsner Urquell, Peroni, Miller and Grolsch, said it would aim to grow Meantime nationally and explore export opportunities to other parts of Europe.

Established in 1999 in the southeast London suburb of Greenwich, Meantime has become popular on the city's craft beer scene with its London Pale Ale and Yakima Red brews.

A spokesman declined to reveal the value of the deal, but a source said it was much less than the £300m (€414m) valuation for another British craft beer company, Brewdog.

The deal highlights the growing popularity of craft beers in Britain and worldwide and follows a number of other small breweries being acquired by big players.

Earlier this year Anheuser-Busch bought Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Company – its fourth craft beer acquisition in five years – while in 2012 Canada’s Molson Coors bought Cork’s Franciscan Well brewery. 

The volume of beer sold by Meantime rose 58% in 2014, compared to overall growth in the British beer market of just 1% last year.

Spiros Malandrakis, an expert at Euromonitor, a market intelligence company in London, said brewers wanted to get away from "maturity and saturation."

Big brewers were interested in taking over craft brewers "to make the most of their momentum," he said.

But he warned the move carried risks, including a possible "backlash" against them from the craft beer community.