Beers Americans No Longer Drink

December 15, 2014 by 247alex

477874845American beer sales have been trending downwards in recent years. After peaking at nearly 219 million barrels in 2008, total U.S. shipments have declined since, reaching just 211.7 million barrels in 2013.

The recent drops in beer sales have been especially pronounced at many of the nation’s top brewers. Total shipments of both Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) and MillerCoors have slumped as several of their major brands have lost substantial market share. According to data provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights, American sales of seven major brands, including Budweiser, declined by more than 20% between 2008 and 2013.

Click here to see the beers Americans no longer drink

According to Eric Shepard, executive editor at Beer Marketer’s Insights, major beer brands can still point to the last recession as a contributing factor to their current slump. “The people that got hit hardest in the economic recession were your mainstream beer drinkers — lower- to mid-income males, 25 to 34 [years old],” Shepard said.

Another key factor in the weakening sales has been price dynamics. “Beer prices were increased more aggressively over the last five years than wine and spirits,” Shepard said. Many people in the industry believe that, as a result, some customers replaced buying beer with the now relatively less expensive wines and spirits, he explained.

Several other products were also gaining at the expense of big brand-name beers, Shepard noted. While some customers have been moving to wine and spirits, others were switching to imported beer, particularly Mexican imports. Indeed, in the five years through 2013, shipments of Mexican brands Dos Equis and Modelo Especial more-than doubled. Similarly, he added, “Some [drinkers] are moving to craft [beer]. Clearly, there’s been a trade-up in the industry.”

Craft beers have largely bucked the overall downtrend in beer sales. From 2008 to 2013, shipments of craft beer rose by 80.1% to a total of more than 16 million barrels, or 7.6% of the U.S. beer market. While the craft beer category now outsells Budweiser, it remains a relatively niche market. For comparison, the nation’s top-selling brand, Bud Light, shipped 38 million barrels in 2013, accounting for 18% of all beer shipped.

While the last few years have been difficult for many large brewers, they, too, have been introducing new products that combine well-known brand names with new concepts that appeal to consumers. In recent years, Anheuser-Busch has introduced Bud Light Platinum, a higher alcohol content beer with a sweeter flavor; Bud Light Ritas, a margarita-inspired malt beverage; and Shock Top, its own take on craft beer. As of last year, these three brands had captured 2% of the overall beer market.

To identify the seven beers Americans no longer drink, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights for all brands with more than 1 million barrels shipped in 2008. All of these seven brands reported a 20% or more decline in shipments in the five years through 2013.

These are the beers Americans no longer drink.

7. Miller High Life
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -21.2%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 4,000,000

Shipments of Miller High Life declined by 21.2% between 2008 and 2013, from more than 5 million barrels to 4 million barrels last year. High Life, known for its tagline as “The Champagne of Beers,” has been in production since 1903, although during prohibition the brand was used to market non-alcoholic drinks. While the brand is now over 110 years old, ownership of Miller Brewing has changed hands several times. In 1970, Miller was bought by cigarette maker Philip Morris. In 2002, Philip Morris, now called Altria, sold most of its stake in Miller to South African Breweries, which then changed its name to SABMiller. In 2007, SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing merged their U.S. operations in a joint venture called MillerCoors.

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6. Miller Lite
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -22.6%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 13,700,000

Miller Lite states that it is “the original light beer,” having launched the category in 1975. Miller Lite’s ad campaign to introduce Miller Lite to the American consumer included the now famous tagline “Great Taste, Less Filling.” Even after sales declined by 22.6% from 2008 through 2013, Miller Lite remains an industry heavyweight, shipping 13.7 million barrels last year, or 6.5% of all U.S. beer shipments. Yet, Miller Lite remains far smaller than rivals Coors Light and Bud Light, which shipped 18.2 million and 38.1 million, respectively. These two brands alone accounted for 26.6% of the U.S. beer market in 2013.

5. Budweiser
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -27.6%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels shipped (2013): 16,000,000

Budweiser is one of the most famous brands in the world. Created in 1876, Budweiser quickly established itself as a national brand through, at the time, innovative production and distribution methods. These included introducing pasteurization to the beer industry as well as refrigerated rail cars. Today, Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, which was formed after Belgian brewer InBev acquired American beer titan Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion in 2008. The sale of an iconic American brand to a foreign company initially caused some outrage. However, Americans themselves are drinking far less Budweiser than in years past. Shipments of the brand fell nearly 28% between 2008 and 2013.

4. Milwaukee’s Best Light
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -40.6%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,010,000

Shipments of Milwaukee’s Best Light fell by more than 40% between 2008 and 2013. Previously quite small, Milwaukee’s Best Light held just a 0.5% U.S. market share last year. Whereas Budweiser and Miller Lite are considered premium brands, Milwaukee’s Best is part of the discount brand category. An improving American economy since 2008 may explain at least part of the drop in shipments. Americans’ buying habits shifted towards cheap beers during the recession. But now that the economy is stronger, the trend seems to be reversing again.

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3. Milwaukee’s Best
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -57.0%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 580,000

MillerCoors describes Milwaukee’s Best as being “brewed for a man’s taste,” and as “Highly drinkable. Highly affordable.” The brand has also experienced a downturn in popularity over the last few years. From 2008 to 2013, brand shipments declined by 57%, or 770,000 barrels in total, and its market share slumped from 0.6% in 2008 to 0.3% last year. Like its light beer counterpart, Milwaukee’s Best is a discount brand, and some of its sales drop can likely be explained by customers switching to higher-priced brands as the economy has improved. Still, some discount brands have been able to retain, and even grow, market share in the improved economy. Shipments of Pabst Blue Ribbon rose 71.5% between 2008 and 2013.

2. Miller Genuine Draft
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -58.3%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,175,000

In its advertisements, Miller Genuine Draft claims it captures a “the fresh taste of draft beer in a bottle.” According to AdAge, when launching the brand, Miller successfully “used advertising from Backer & Spielvogel, New York, that touted the brand’s cold-filtering process, a technique long used by rival Coors but not mentioned in its advertising.” Draft taste or not, interest in the brand has plummeted in recent years, as sales dropped 58% from 2008 through 2013.

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1. Budweiser Select
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -61.1%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels shipped (2013): 525,000

Anheuser-Busch introduced Budweiser Select in 2005 as a full-flavored light beer. Select is one of a number of initiatives that have been tried over the years to revive the Budweiser brand. Other attempts included Budweiser Black Crown, an amber lager, and Budweiser Chelada, a beer and clamato mix. Budweiser Select, however, does not appear to have been the answer for falling sales. Shipments of Budweiser Select declined 61% from 2008 through 2013, more than twice the decline for traditional Budweiser in that time.