It’s the king of beers, the all-American brew, the most popular beer brand for all-Americans at every barbecue, beach party, and blowout… Except, it’s not. At least not anymore. Budweiser has been dethroned, the perennial American beer is no longer one of the top three beers in the nation.
For years, Bud and Bud Light traded the top spot, before Coors knocked Bud out of the second seat back in 2011. But Light still reigned on top, and still does. But Budweiser? Now it’s number four with a bullet, being replaced in the third spot by Miller Lite.
That’s some bad news for Budweiser, but it gets even worse. Miller Lite didn’t launch itself into third place by having a great year. In fact, Miller Lite sales were down in 2017. There were just not as bad as Bud sales. This factoid opens a window into some very troubling trends for American beer makers. Sales are down across the board. People are simply not drinking as much beer as they once did.
And competition is getting tighter. Rounding out the top seven are Corona Extra, Michelob Ultra, and Modelo Especial, just edging Natural Light. But what is it that is pushing big name beer sales down? People aren’t giving up drinking altogether, are they? Nope, not a bit. But the reality is worse, at least for big-name brewers than even a teetotaling market.
The consumer trends are moving increasingly toward both craft beers from smaller batch and local brewers and, thanks to Millennials, more toward wine. Consumers want more flavor options from their beer, and they’re just not happy with the same ol’, same ol’ taste selections offered by Bud and the other big competitors.
Other companies are suffering as well. Thanks to the hipster trend, Pabst Blue Ribbon saw a massive comeback, but now that company is laying people off. Same with Summit and Green Flash. And even some of the larger craft brewers are feeling the sting of dropping sales. Boston Beer Company, maker of the popular Sam Adams line, and Sierra Nevada, a California based brewer known for IPAs.
Taken all together, there’s simply less room for error in a tightening market. Upstarts have become industry regulars as customers are deciding what “their brand” happens to be. Those decisions have led less to Budweiser, becoming more splintered. This trend looks to continue, so it may well be the new normal. Companies and brands will have to adjust unless they want to lose even more market share.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.