In a surprising turn of events, Dylan Mulvaney catalyzed a significant shift in American drinking habits in 2023. The partnership between Bud Light and this influential transgender figure led to a boycott that had a detrimental effect on the Anheuser-Busch brand.
Months after the boycott began, Bud Light’s sales remained alarmingly low. Nielsen data analyzed by consulting firm Bump Williams revealed that retail sales for Bud Light were down 28 percent compared to the previous year over four weeks ending in December.
This decline in sales was not limited to Bud Light alone. David Steinman, BMI’s vice president and executive editor, described 2023 as a challenging year for the entire beer industry. He stated that beer shipments in the United States would drop below 200 million barrels for the first time since 1999.
While Bud Light was the brand most severely impacted, other domestic-premium brands such as Miller Light and Coors Light also faced the consequences of changing consumer preferences. Vice president of analytics and chief economist at the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Lester Jones, pointed out that new players in the industry were eroding the dominance of long-established companies. Modelo Especial dethroned Bud Light as the best-selling beer in the U.S. during 2023.
One major factor contributing to these changes is the introduction of sugar-forward alcoholic beverages by sizeable soft drink and energy companies. According to Jones, These new products compete for the same consumer occasions as traditional malt- and hop-forward beers.
The beer industry in 2023 experienced a tumultuous ride amidst an expanding economy and an oversupplied alcohol marketplace. While global beer sales did not decline as they did in the U.S., prices rose, leading to increased dollar sales and profits, as Steinman explained.
However, concerns have arisen within the industry. Craft beers flooding the market have reached a saturation point, prompting worries among commentators. Craig Purser, president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, described the situation as an industry-wide, five-alarm fire.
The Journal highlighted the current fads of nonalcoholic beers and canned cocktails. Younger adults, in particular, are gravitating toward spirits over beer and consuming less alcohol than their older counterparts.
The drinking landscape in America is undergoing a significant transformation, with changing tastes and the emergence of new players challenging long-established beer brands. As the beer industry navigates these challenges, how it will adapt and shape the future of drinking in the United States remains to be seen.