According to industry experts, Bud Light is facing the risk of losing its position as the best-selling beer brand in the US as its sales plummeted 26% amidst controversy over its partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
The drop in sales is reportedly giving Modelo Especial, currently ranked as the No. 2 brand, the chance to overtake Bud Light as the top beer brand in the US.
Industry data from Beer Business Daily shows that in-store sales of Bud Light were down 26% from the previous year for the week ending April 22, weeks after the controversy first emerged.
While still the top-selling beer brand in the country, industry expert Bump Williams warned that if Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light’s parent company, cannot reverse the decline in sales, the brand is “in serious trouble this year.”
Williams, founder of Bump Williams Consulting, believes that if Bud Light’s sales continue to drop, Modelo Especial could take over as the top beer brand in the US.
According to Williams, last year, Bud Light sold $4.8 billion worth of beer in stores, followed by Modelo Especial with $3.75 billion and Michelob Ultra with $3.3 billion.
Despite being owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, Michelob Ultra is trailing behind Modelo Especial in sales.
Coors Light and Miller Lite, both owned by Molson Coors, ranked fourth and sixth in sales last year, respectively, while Corona Extra ranked fifth with $2.28 billion in sales. However, Williams dismissed the possibility of Coors Light and Miller Lite surpassing Bud Light in sales, despite its recent slump, because of the significant gap between the brands. Williams did speculate that if more Bud Light customers switched to Coors Light or Miller Lite, the competition could become a much more competitive three-way race.
Williams also observed that Bud Light’s negative halo effect was beginning to affect other Anheuser-Busch brands, with customers switching to Michelob Ultra to avoid being seen with a Bud Light. The controversy started when Bud Light presented Mulvaney with personalized cans showing her face as a commemorative gift for the influencer, leading to outrage from beer fans. Kid Rock used Bud Light cans as target practice, and country singers John Rich and Travis Tritt publicly denounced the brand, accusing Anheuser-Bush of pursuing a social agenda that contradicted the beliefs of its core customers.
In the wake of the controversy, two senior Anheuser-Busch marketing executives took leave of absence. However, Bud Light’s parent company is determined to salvage its public image and has promised to “spend heavily” on the brand. Last week, senior executives held a closed-door meeting with distributors in Washington, DC, where they laid out future plans for the brand.
According to Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, spending on the brand “fell off a cliff last year,” but Anheuser-Busch leaders are promising to rectify the situation. The executives are also implementing a more rigorous screening process for marketing campaigns to ensure that the brand’s reputation is not further tarnished.
Despite the company’s efforts to save the brand, the declining sales and negative impact on Anheuser-Busch’s other brands are raising concerns about Bud Light’s future as the top beer brand in the US.