America’s largest brewers were planning to work together to boost beer’s image, but that seems to have gone Dilly up.
To hear Anheuser-Busch InBev tell it, the biggest threat to beer isn’t beer itself, but growing sales of other alcoholic beverages like wine and spirits. I’ve heard them present this argument many times in a number of contexts. For instance, a few years ago when I interviewed Felipe Szpigel, then-president of Anheuser-Busch’s The High End division, he stated he missed “a willingness to work together as a beer industry in our collective battle with wine and spirits,” later adding, “only together through innovation, passion and providing the best experiences can we combat the losses our category has experienced to wine and spirits.”
Along those lines, AB InBev has been working to create an alliance of America’s largest brewers to attempt to help buoy beer’s image in general. But if other breweries aren’t the enemy, you sure as hell wouldn’t have known it during the Super Bowl when Bud Light ran an attack ad against its two biggest competitors — Miller Lite and Coors Light — for using corn syrup (which, for the record, isn’t that big of a deal). Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Super Bowl campaign has proven so “successful” that it appears to be derailing that alliance altogether.
“Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Molson Coors Brewing Co., Heineken NV and Constellation Brands Inc. [which make up about 75 percent of U.S. beer sales] have for over a year discussed a potential multimillion-dollar, brand-agnostic campaign aimed at improving the overall health of the beer category,” the WSJ writes. “But the campaign could now be dead in the water after MillerCoors, Molson’s U.S. unit, pulled out of a meeting slated for next month and said the initiative should be paused following a public spat with Bud Light maker AB InBev.”
It’s easy to see why MillerCoors might want out of this alliance. Though a rising tide lifts all boats, when one of those boats is actively firing at you, you might just be better off in a different part of the sea. Plus, keep in mind, Bud Light is the best-selling beer brand in the country with as many sales as Coors Light and Miller Lite combined. It seems like the kind of situation where if you want to be a leader, you might want to act like it.
Interestingly enough, when asked for comment, an AB InBev spokeswoman told the WSJ that other beer brands' use of corn syrup is “a fact and one we thought consumers should know as they decide which beer to drink.” Speaking of facts, it’s not all beer brands that are struggling. While Bud Light has seen production volumes drop by a quarter over the past decade, craft beer production has tripled. So as it turns out, the problem isn’t actually with the entire beer category. Maybe that’s something Bud Light might want to look into.