Beverage giant Anheuser-Busch Inbev made a more than $100 billion offer last month to buy its main competitor, SABMiller. The resulting conglomerate will be by far the largest beer beverage company in the world with annual sales of more than $55 billion.
The new company will be in an excellent position to navigate the lucrative but ever-changing landscape of the $100 billion U.S. beer market. In the last five years alone, Americans’ drinking preferences have substantially shifted. Once unassailable beers such as Budweiser and Miller High Life have seen sales decline by more than 25% from 2009 through 2014.
Meanwhile, sales of such beers as Modelo Especial and Stella Artois — once more marginal brands in the United States — have more than doubled.
Based on five-year declines in U.S. sales, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 beers Americans are no longer drinking.
Most of the beers with the largest declines are well-established brands that have been popular choices among Americans for years. They include brands such as Milwaukee’s Best, Old Milwaukee, Miller High Life, and even Budweiser, which was once the most popular brand in the country.
Beer Marketer’s Insights executive editor Eric Shepard explained to 24/7 Wall St. that this is part of a widespread trend in the United States of many established top brands taking a significant hit.
According to Shepard: “It’s been a very difficult period for mainstream brands, particularly full-calorie mainstream brands, but that’s also [true] with the major light brands as well.” Despite huge investments from their parent companies, sales figures for many of the top selling beers in the U.S. continue on a downward trend. “They know this, they are doing what they can to address this, and so far their efforts have not been that successful.”
One of main causes of this shift away from once-popular brands was the recession that began in 2007. People who typically consumed mainstream beers were, according to Shepard, the hardest hit during this time. Even as the economy has recovered, this crucial demographic has not returned to full strength.
The other major factor that has taken a considerable bite out of the market share of these brands has been the astronomical rise in the popularity of specialty and craft beers. According to the Brewer’s Association, while overall U.S. beer sales increased by 0.4% last year, craft beer sales were up by 19.6%. Brands such as Blue Moon and shandy brand Leinenkugel, both of which are owned by a major beverage company, have capitalized on this trend. Americans, and particularly millennials, are choosing brands that are labeled as “craft” beers, even as they sell more than 1 million barrels a year.
To identify the 10 beers Americans are no longer drinking, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed sales figures provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights on all brands with more than 400,000 barrels shipped in either 2008 or 2014.
These are the 10 beers Americans no longer drink.
1. Bud Select
> Sales change (2009-2014): -60.4%
> Parent company: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels shipped in 2014: 475,000
Brewed by Anheuser Busch InBev, Bud Select is part of a small family of low calorie beers, which includes Select 55 — 55 denoting the number of calories in the beer. While Bud Select contains 99 calories, it is still much less than the 145 calories in regular Budweiser. The popularity of light beers over the past decade partially explains the market dominance of beers such as Bud Light, but the trend has not benefited the low-calorie Bud Select brand. Bud Select sales fell by 60.4% over the five years through last year, the largest decline of any major beer brand sold in the United States.
2. Milwaukee’s Best
>Sales change (2009-2014): -55.7%
> Parent company: SABMiller
> Barrels shipped in 2014: 510,000
While the beer bills itself as Milwaukee’s Best, sales figures indicate otherwise. From 2009 through 2014, sales of Milwaukee’s Best sales have declined by more than 55%. In 2014, Milwaukee’s Best shipped only 510,000 barrels of beer, the lowest amount of the 35 top beer brands after only Bud Select. As is the case with Milwaukee’s Best Light, the company’s marketing of the beer emphasizes how Milwaukee’s Best is a beer for men. Explicitly excluding one half of the market may partially explain the beer’s poor sales performance.
3. Miller Genuine Draft
>Sales change (2009-2014): -54.5%
> Parent company: SABMiller
> Barrels shipped in 2014: 1.0 million
Miller Genuine Draft, or MGD, was first introduced by MillerCoors in 1986 and brewed with a cold-filtering process intended to mimic the taste of draft beer. In the 1990s, MGD marketing tried to appeal to the average American with its macro brew ad campaign, telling consumers: “It’s time for beer to stop acting like wine.” With the increased popularity of micro brews in recent years, it seems MGD’s image may be hurting sales. From 2009 through 2014, sales of Miller Genuine Draft plunged by 54.5%, while sales of craft beers generally increased. Due in part to the sales decline, MillerCoors is closing the plant where Miller Genuine Draft was first brewed.