Some 30 years ago in 1988, the beer industry looked very different in the US. Only a handful of craft breweries dotted the country and bars were dominated by just a handful of beers. But one beer dominated them all.
Budweiser sales accounted for one in four beers sold in the US. We, humans, are really bad at comprehending fractions and one in four doesn’t sound like a lot. We looked at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms stats for 1988, and that year brewers fermented 160 million barrels of beer. That means that one in four translates roughly to 40 million barrels of one single beer.
And today it’s just the number three selling beer and its volume has fallen down to just 13 million barrels. What in the world is behind the fall of his historic brand?
Check out our article on best beers in Alaska The Last Frontier and beer tasting (Episode Alaska).
How it all came to an end
This fall from grace from Budweiser is not totally unexpected after all. This beer is 142 years old and was originally concocted by a couple of German immigrants in the 1870s. For years Budweiser held the top spot in the US until 2001. It was surpassed by its younger brother Bud Light. In 2011 it was passed by Coors Light in terms of volume.
So today we have Bud Light as number one, Coors Light as number two, and Budweiser in a rather distant third place. The interesting thing is that none of these brands is actively growing anymore. It’s more of a contest to see who is contracting the slowest. All these top beer brands are being assaulted by a series of market trends that are beginning to quell their buzz.
The killer market trends
Americans have been cutting back on their beer consumption over the past few decades. things like craft cocktails and the rise of local distilleries seem to be a part of the cause of this trend.
Another big contributing factor is that many drinkers are drinking less beer in terms of volume but higher ABV beers. And some beer nerds are so hardcore that they have started brewing at home. The Brewers Association now reports that there are more than 1 million homebrewers in the US.
Speaking of higher ABV beers those enterprising craft brewers are also staling a bigger slice of the overall shrinking pie taking away business from brands like Budweiser.
Domestic competitors are not the only source of strife for the huge brewers either. Foreign brands are also seeing success at the US at the expense of Budweiser brand.
Budweiser also appears to be struggling in the marketing department as well. In the past 7 or 8 years they have been working almost exclusively with the marketing firm Anomaly. They are a fairly prominent ad agency working with many consumer brands. And they have ben helping Budweiser with all their large campagnes.
But since their less than successful Superbowl ad they are not exclusive anymore. None of these trends are the single cause of their decline. They are just not finding a solid home in the modern beer marketplace.
Consumers are looking for things that are new and exciting. Beers that push the envelope a little bit. Variety seems to bee the spice of life these days and Budweiser just doesn’t quite fit that mold anymore. The beer that once dominated bars and homes across the US is now an old gunslinger riding off into a golden sunset. Cheers.