Bud Light Is No Longer the No. 1 Beer in America

Bud Light Is No Longer the No. 1 Beer in America
Cans of Bud Light chill in a refrigerator in Oakland, Calif., on April 28, 2023. (Jeff Chiu/AP Photo)
Jack Phillips

As the fallout over its decision to promote a transgender influencer continues, Bud Light was dethroned by Modelo Especial for the month of May, according to data.

Modelo Especial, owned by Constellation Brands in the United States, is No. 1 and holds about 8.4 percent retail sales in the American beer market for the four-week period ending June 3, according to Bump Williams Consulting and Nielsen IQ data, according to several news reports. Bud Light, the data shows, is now No. 2 with 7.3 percent of retail sales.

In early April, transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney posted a Bud Light beer can on social media and signaled a partnership. The beer can, which featured Mulvaney’s face, drew immediate backlash from country singers and conservative influencers, who called for a boycott of the light beer company.

Weeks later, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris told investors on a call that it was too early to have a full view of the backlash’s impact on the company’s sales. Doukeris also said that his firm would triple its investment in Bud Light marketing over the summer.

In those public remarks, Doukeris also tried to distance the brand from Mulvaney, insisting that it was just “one can” of beer that was produced with Mulvaney’s face. There was also no official partnership between Bud Light and Mulvaney, although Mulvaney had written, “#BudLightPartner,” on social media posts in April.

Bump Williams also said that actual dollar sales were grim for Bud Light during the four-week period, falling 24.4 percent. Modelo’s sales grew 12.2 percent, it said.

“Modelo Especial appears to be increasing its sales growth each week as we get deeper into summer,” Williams told CNN on Wednesday, adding that other Modelo beers are also performing well.

And Dave Williams, vice president of analytics and insights at Bump Williams consulting, told Axios that “if trends were to continue as is for the remainder of the year, Modelo Especial could surpass Bud Light to claim the No. 1 rank in Off-Premise Beer [dollar] sales by year-end.” Williams said that there is still a long way to go for Modelo to claim that top spot.

AB InBev’s overall sales growth declined 12 percent in the four weeks ended May 20, data from NielsenIQ and TD Cowen showed. TD Cowen analyst Vivien Azer said the decline would “fully capture the boycott,” compared with the 3.6 percent decline in sales growth AB InBev witnessed for the four weeks ending April 22.

In 2013, the Department of Justice reached a settlement with Anheuser-Busch InBev and Grupo Modelo that required the companies to divest Modelo’s business to Constellation Brands, a separate company, within the United States. But outside the United States, Modelo is owned by Anheuser-Busch.
Cans of Modelo Especial beer at a supermarket in New York on June 14, 2023. (Peter Morgan/AP Photo)
Cans of Modelo Especial beer at a supermarket in New York on June 14, 2023. (Peter Morgan/AP Photo)

Shares of AB InBev had outperformed Molson Coors and Constellation Brands for the first three months of 2023. But they are now trending lower after the backlash against Bud Light intensified in April.

“Bud Light’s stumble with Dylan Mulvaney will certainly hurt their chances to take market share, but Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Modelo will reap most of those rewards,” said Jon Reynolds, a certified instructor in the business of craft beer at the University of Vermont.

A statement from Constellation noted that Modelo’s sales volumes have doubled since 2017. “We continue to see runway for growth as we introduce Modelo to new consumers,” a spokeswoman, Maggie Bowan, said in a statement to USA Today.

Anheuser-Busch sent a statement to USA Today that it remains the top beer brand in the United States this year in terms of dollar sales and overall volume. The Epoch Times has contacted the company for comment.

During a Financial Times interview last month, Doukeris, the AB InBev CEO, blamed social media-driven “misinformation” and “confusion” on the backlash.

“People often talk about this topic in social media like noise,” Doukeris told the outlet. “You have one fact, and every person puts an opinion behind the fact. And then the opinions start to be replicated fast on each and every comment. By the time that 10 or 20 people put a comment out there, the reality is no longer what the fact is, but is more [about] what the comments were.”

In mid-May, Anheuser-Busch was downgraded after an HSBC analyst revised the stock down to “hold” and claimed the company is dealing with a “Bud Light crisis.” The analyst also speculated there are “deeper problems” that the company might not be willing to publicly admit.

“Is ABI’s leadership getting the brand culture transformation right? It’s mixed,” the analyst wrote said at the time. “At Ambev, we think the answer is ‘yes’; in the U.S., we think it’s ‘no.’ The way this Bud Light crisis came about a month ago, management’s response to it and the loss of unprecedented volume and brand relevance raises many questions.”

Reuters contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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