We have reported that the mass market breweries are experiencing a loss in sales across many of their brands. While craft beer sales are seeing strong growth the big industrial brewers are seeing a very sharp decline in sales. Since 2007 beer sales have decreased in America by 2.3%. These losses being almost exclusively with big beer brands.
USA Today reported yesterday that sales are shocking for a few of Americas biggest beers. They listed the nine beers that Americans are fleeing for better beer, wine, or liquor.
- Michelob Light: 69.6% loss in sales
- Budweiser Select: 61.5% loss in sales
- Milwaukee’s Best Premium: 58.5% loss in sales
- Miller Genuine Draft: 56.4% loss in sales
- Old Milwaukee: 54.0% loss in sales
- Milwaukee’s Best Light: 39.7% loss in sales
- Heineken Premium Light: 36.7% loss in sales
- Budweiser: 28.8%
- Labatt Blue: 28.3% loss in sales
These drop in sales figures are astounding. There are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about these numbers. The first is that these are massively huge brands that can weather the ups and downs of the business cycle. Budweiser while dropping over a quarter in sales in half a decade still produces 16.8 million barrels in 2012. For a single (and not their most popular) brand that is still an unimaginable amount of beer. Though for brands like Milwaukee who have many brands that are seeing rapidly declining sales you wonder if the brand has a future.
While the major reason for this drop is not traditional beer drinkers flocking to craft beer some of the drop in sales is due to the mistreatment of brands when bought by global brewers. There were numerous complaints from fans of Rolling Rock and Heineken when they were bought by what is now AB-Inbev for changing the recipe to maximize profitability with disregard to their loyal fan base.
Yet it is more economic forces that are showing a decrease in all but the most omnipotent brands. With “main street” still feeling the economic strife of the recession of 2008 and exceedingly slow job growth more and more Americans are looking to get more purchasing power for their limited income. Sales of flavored vodkas are shooting through the roof while light lagers are plummeting showing a change in what gets people to drunk in a more economically feasible way.
As a craft beer enthusiast I cannot feel too horrible about the death of mass market brands but I fear that if a mass market beer collapse happens that perhaps many good craft breweries might get toss out with the major brands. I would prefer to see people switching from bad beer to good but abandon beer altogether. But it is difficult to persuade someone to ditch a case of Budweiser due to expense and instead by a case of craft beer that optimistically might cost double or triple their Budweiser.