For the First Time Ever, America's Three Top-Selling Beers Are All Light
Turns out the self-proclaimed “King of Beers” is no longer even the heir apparent when it comes to sales. Budweiser – probably still the most iconic American beer brand despite its recent struggles – has slipped to fourth on the list of the country’s top-selling beer brands. The news may come as a surprise to casual beer fans, but the writing has actually been on the wall for quite some time.
The truth is that Budweiser hasn’t reigned atop the beer world since 2001. That year, Bud Light knocked it out of first place. At the time, Bud ceding the top ranking to Bud Light was a bit bittersweet: Like Serena Williams besting her older sister Venus, if you have to lose, you’d rather do it to family.
But the real trouble came in 2011 when Coors Light leapfrogged Budweiser to take over the number two spot, leaving Budweiser in third place. Coors Light’s gains demonstrated the continuing ascension of light beers over regular lagers, and at the start of 2016, six of the top seven beers in America were light beers, with Budweiser being the lone holdout. Clearly, one of these things was not like the other, and last year, when MillerCoors announced that Miller Lite had moved into the number three spot, the brass at Anheuser-Busch was likely disappointed but almost definitely not surprised.
However, none of these brands are likely celebrating any of this news. As we discussed in November, all four beer brands saw sales declines in 2017. The only reason Miller Lite was able to pass Budweiser was that its sales were down less. Sales of Miller Lite dropped about 1.6 percent last year, but were still apparently better than Bud’s declines. Meanwhile, the light beer category has seen volumes decline by 14 percent in the past half-decade, and as CNN Money points out, whereas the top ten brands used to make up two-thirds of all U.S. beer sales, now they only make up about half due to craft brands chipping away at the mainstream and a beer market that is slowing overall.
Still, Anheuser-Busch tried to put a positive spin on the news. “Budweiser remains the leader of the classic lager segment,” Budweiser vice president Ricardo Marques told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Budweiser is in a strong position for the future, and we are very confident in our current plans and the year ahead of us.” Hey, some people think Elvis is still alive too. Kings are good at inspiring hope.