The reign of Bud Light as America’s top-selling beer has come to an end after more than two decades. The Anheuser-Busch brand was dethroned by Modelo Especial, a Mexican lager brewed by Constellation Brands in the US, in May.
According to data from consulting firm Bump Williams, Modelo Especial accounted for 8.4% of US retail beer sales in the four weeks ending June 3, while Bud Light had 7.3%. The data also showed that sales of Bud Light dropped 24.4% year over year for the week ended June 3, while sales of Modelo and other competitors like Coors Light and Miller Lite rose.
“Modelo Especial appears to be increasing its sales growth each week as we get deeper into summer,” Williams told CNN.
The decline of Bud Light was triggered by a boycott from conservatives who were outraged by its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who showed off a customized Bud Light can on Instagram in April. Mulvaney, who has over 2 million followers on the platform, said Bud Light had sent her a can with her face on it and thanked the company for “celebrating diversity.”
The boycott also affected sales of other beers owned by Anheuser-Busch, such as Budweiser and Michelob Ultra. “It’s difficult to determine the duration of the boycott, but it has already lasted longer than industry executives anticipated and appears likely to impact the July 4th holiday,” BofA analysts said in a research note.
“Bud Light’s stumble with Dylan Mulvaney will certainly hurt their chances to take market share, but Miller Lite, Coors Light and Modelo will reap most of those rewards,” said Jon Reynolds, a certified instructor in the business of craft beer at the University of Vermont.
“Our year is screwed,” an Anheuser-Busch distributor who doesn’t carry Modelo told The Wall Street Journal.
Prior to the boycott, demand for Bud Light and other light beers had begun to wane, amid a decade-plus-long rise of alternatives like craft beer and seltzer. Bud Light had been trying to attract younger drinkers with new products like hard seltzer and lemonade.
Modelo Especial, on the other hand, has been growing steadily in popularity among Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers alike. The brand recently launched Modelo Oro, a low-carb beer that is off to a strong start.
Constellation Brands, which owns Modelo Especial in the US but is part of Anheuser-Busch elsewhere in the world, said it was pleased with the performance of its beer portfolio and expected to gain more market share in the future.
– Bud Light loses its title as America’s top-selling beer, CNN, 6/14/2023
– Bud Light dethroned as top-selling beer by Modelo, as boycott cuts into sales, MarketWatch, 6/13/2023
– Bud Light loses top US beer spot after Mulvaney ad boycott, Reuters, 6/14/2023
– Bud Light Is No Longer America’s Top-Selling Beer, Daily Caller, 6/8/2023