Growth rates in premium beers such as Coors Light, Miller Lite and Yuengling Amber Lager are accelerating while AB InBev-owned Bud Light, which has come under fire, remains down more than 20% from a year ago, according to the latest figures provided to Food Dive from The BWC Company. The data includes off-premise sales and doesn’t reflect bars, restaurants, venues or ballpark sales.
While Bud Light is still the market leader, its percentage point lead over Coors Light has tightened to +6% for the week ending May 6 based on dollar sales— among the smallest on record — compared to a +16% percentage point gap averaged on a running year-to-date basis, the firm’s off-premise data noted.
The Bud Light brand, which had been struggling before its marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, has seen its problems worsen since the tie-in was first announced. The sales drop also has recently spread to other brands in its portfolio.
For Bud Light, the good news is the drop in sales appears to have leveled off, but they remain down about 23% or so versus the same time a year ago. At the same time, BWC said the “negative halo” continues to impact its other brands such as Budweiser, Ultra, Busch Light and Natural Light, though the rate of declines for those brands also has narrowed compared to the prior week.
“Long story short, this seems to be where the brand’s weekly declines have started to settle,” Bump Williams, CEO of BMC, said in an email. “It’s a mighty weekly drop for sure.”
More worrisome for Bud Light, the leading U.S. beer brand, is that its competitors are maintaining or seeing an uptick in dollar sales versus a year earlier.
The increase was especially surprising during Cinco de Mayo, which tends to give Mexican imports such as Corona and Modelo, a tailwind. In the week ending May 6, Coors Light off-premise sales rose 22.2% compared to a year earlier versus 20.3% for the April 29 week. Similarly, Miller Lite sales increased 22.8% and 20.6% during the same time periods, the BWC data showed.
During his company’s earnings call last week, Michel Doukeris, AB InBev’s CEO, downplayed the negative impact following its decision to promote Bud Light with Mulvaney. The executive noted the decline in Bud Light volume during the first three weeks of April represents about 1% of its global volumes.
“With respect to the current situation and the impact of Bud Light sales, it is too early to have a full view,” he said.
The turmoil that Bud Light and AB InBev have faced with respect to the Mulvaney controversy could place food and beverage companies in a tough spot going forward, particularly as they are under pressure to speak out on issues that are important to the same consumers who buy their products. Businesses could be less likely to speak out, or more likely, comment only on issues that are agreed to by the majority of the public or less controversial.
Molson Coors’ Miller Lite has recently attracted some attention for an ad featuring Ilana Glazer, the Los Angeles Magazine reported. The ad, which features the comedian talking about the separation between women in brewing beer compared to the number of beer commercials with females in bikinis, discusses a Miller Lite plan to buy up sexist advertising and convert it into something good. So far, there is no evidence it’s impacted sales of the beer.