Bud Light sales fall in U.S. as Mexico’s Modelo gains popularity

Even amid fallout prompted by a Bud Light advertisement featuring a transgender influencer, Anheuser-Busch InBev was confident in May that Bud Light was still America’s top selling brand — a title it has held for more than two decades.

But a recently released analysis of the beer brand’s sales numbers suggests that reign might be in jeopardy. In May, sales of Modelo Especial — the Mexican beer brand — outpaced the longtime leader, as AB InBev grapples with a wave of cultural backlash to an April Instagram ad in which Dylan Mulvaney, the transgender actress and internet influencer, shows off a can of Bud Light bearing her likeness.

In the four weeks leading up to May 20, Modelo Especial claimed the highest share of U.S. sales at 8.6 percent, compared with Bud Light at 7.6 percent, according to consulting firm Bump Williams. That is a turnaround from the four weeks leading up to March 25, when Bud Light claimed 10 percent of sales to Modelo Especial’s 7.7 percent.

The backlash to Mulvaney included a conservative boycott of Bud Light. Customers angry with the partnership have filmed themselves destroying cans of Bud Light with construction equipment and firearms. Some liberal customers, meanwhile, grew angry with the brewer for failing to stick up for Mulvaney in the face of criticism.

AB InBev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While recent events may have affected Bud Light sales, broad market trends were favoring Modelo even before the Mulvaney controversy, Dave Williams, vice president of analytics and insights at Bump Williams, told The Washington Post in an email. Consumers might be moving away from Bud Light because expanding the customer base for U.S. domestic beer continues to be a struggle for brewers, Williams said.

Asked whether Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican holiday, contributed to Modelo’s May success, Williams said: “Modelo has been on a steady rise for a long stretch now, and while holiday-timed executions can lead to some lift in sales, they continued to perform after Cinco de Mayo just as well.”

In recent years, Modelo and other Mexican beer have had a growing presence in the United States. According to a Post analysis, about 80 percent of America’s beer imports are from Mexico, up from 17 percent in the early 1990s. Months before the Bud Light boycott, observers predicted that Modelo would overtake Bud Light as the country’s top-selling beer by 2030.

However, Bud Light continues to top its competitors so far this year, with 9 percent share of dollar sales to Modelo’s 8 percent.

“Bud Light is still very much the No. 1 beer brand based on sales” year to date, Williams said in his email, noting that the beer brand has been steadily dominant in sales since 2001.

However, “if current trends were to continue at their most recent pace, then there is a chance that Modelo could surpass Bud Light and become the No. 1 Beer brand ranked on sales by the end of 2023,” he added. “But there is still a lot of ground to cover before we hit that point and a lot can happen between now and December 31.”

by Julian Mark


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