Bud Light Controversy Expected to Cause Beer Sales to Drop to 20-Year Low

Beer Sales Plummet to Lowest Level in More Than 20 Years After Bud Light Controversy

Beer sales across the United States are predicted to hit a 20-year low in 2023, hitting their lowest point since 1999, due to the long-term fallout from the Dylan Mulvaney controversy and its impact on Bud Light, according to industry insiders.

According to data from Beer Marketer’s Insights cited by The Washington Examiner, beer shipments dropped over 5 percent in the first nine months of 2023. The decline has been attributed in part to the widespread boycott of Anheuser-Busch-owned Bud Light earlier this year after the company partnered with transgender activist Mulvaney for a campaign.

Bud Light faced backlash after it sent Mulvaney a pack of beers with their face emblazoned across them to celebrate the TikTok star’s 365 days of being a “woman” and promote the company’s “March Madness” contest, which resulted in a loss of up to $6.5 billion in stock value in just days.

The controversy led to a drop in sales, and Bud Light lost its top spot to Modelo Especial as a result of the partnership with Mulvaney. Since then, Bud Light sales have continued to decline by 25 to 30 percent each month, with sales in stores down by 28 percent in the four weeks ending Dec. 9 compared to the same period last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

David Steinmann, vice president and executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, told the New York Post, “This year in particular, AB is driving the decline in the industry,” in reference to Anheuser-Busch. Experts anticipate that the decline in beer sales will continue due to not only the enduring impact of the Mulvaney controversy but also changing consumer habits, particularly among younger drinkers.

Data published by Berenberg Research earlier this year found that Generation Z is consuming less alcohol than previous generations, while the number of college-age adults opting to ditch alcohol entirely has grown 8 percent in the past two decades, according to a University of Michigan study. More Americans are also turning to non-alcoholic beers and canned cocktails.

Beyond changes in consumer habits, a rise in cannabis use is also contributing to the decline in alcohol consumption, with more and more millennials and Gen Z Americans viewing alcohol as more harmful than marijuana, according to Axios.

Moreover, the number of young adults using marijuana and co-using alcohol and marijuana has increased in recent years, with more and more states voting to legalize marijuana use for recreational purposes.

Experts believe that Bud Light’s controversy is one of the main contributors to the decline in beer sales. Despite the ongoing fallout, Anheuser-Busch remains optimistic about the future, with a spokeswoman telling The Wall Street Journal, “For 2024, we will continue to focus on what we do best—brewing great beer for everyone and earning our place in the moments that matter.”

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