Cheaper than water? Retailers attempt to offload Bud Light.

Cheaper than water?  Retailers attempt to offload Bud Light.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, customers strolled the aisles of Glenn Miller’s Beer & Soda Warehouse, where overhead fans circulated warm air.

In the Pennsylvania community of Lemoyne, across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, picnickers, graduation parties and other get-togethers flocked to the store, passing myriad displays of beer, cans of top brands piled high.

Next to a 30-pack of Miller Lite, on sale for $24.99, was a stack of Bud Light. A large banner above it said that, after the rebate, the 30-pack was only $8.99.

Andy Wagner, the store’s manager and an 18-year veteran, said Miller Lite is selling well. And Bud Light? Not so much.

“At this point in time, it is cheaper than some of the cases of water we are selling,” Mr. Wagner said, adding that as of mid-April Bud Light sales at the store were down 45 percent from a year earlier. “It’s not working like it used to be.”

Nearly three months after transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted a video on his Instagram account promoting a Bud Light contest that drew outrage and boycotts online from the right wing, the beer brand is still winning back loyal, longtime customers. struggling to.

For more than two decades, Bud Light was the best-selling beer in the United States. Its sales exceeded $5 billion last year, which accounts for about 9 percent of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s revenue. But since the boycott, Bud Light has been dethroned by Modelo Especial. In the four weeks ending in mid-June, the amount of Bud Light sold nationally declined an average of 29 percent from a year earlier, according to data from research firm NIQ analyzed by consulting firm Bump Williams.

Anheuser-Busch’s stock has also fallen more than 15 percent since the beginning of April. The company did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

In an interview with “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday, Anheuser-Busch North America zone chief executive Brendan Whitworth acknowledged that the past few weeks have been “challenging” for the brand.

“The conversation around Bud Light has shifted away from the beer,” Mr. Whitworth said, adding that he took responsibility for the controversy’s impact on the company’s employees, customers and distribution partners. “The conversation has become divisive, and Bud Light doesn’t really belong there.”

Asked if he would again campaign with a transgender influencer, Mr Whitworth did not give a straight answer.

“There’s a huge social conversation happening right now and big brands are right in the middle of it,” he added. “And it’s not just our industry or Bud Light. This is happening in retail. This is happening in fast food.

“And so for us, what we need to understand, deeply understand and appreciate is the consumer and what they want, what they care about and what they expect from big brands.”

With the summer sales season well underway — the four months between May and August account for 40 percent of annual beer sales — the question swirling around Bud Light is whether the slump is temporary or the new normal. Is.

“Here we are about 10 weeks, and we’re still seeing double-digit declines in volumes nationally,” said Bump Williams, who runs the consulting firm named after him. “It is no longer an anomaly. It’s a topic of concern.”

In fact, most large beer distributors or wholesalers — middlemen who buy brands from brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors and then sell them to stores, restaurants and bars — believe a survey released this month. According to, the result will last more than six months. by Wall Street investment bank Jefferies. A third of distributors believe the impact on Bud Light will be lasting.

Mr. Wagner said Anheuser-Busch had made a mistake when its marketing broke what he called the “bar rule.” It means “no politics, no religion.” He said that Glenn Miller had never allowed local politicians to put up signs in or around the store so that customers would not be alienated.

Asked how long he thinks the sales decline will last, Mr. Wagner shrugged. “I’ve seen longtime Bud Light customers try other beers,” he said. “If they find something they like, they might not come back.”

Beer distributors, many of whom are independent or family-owned businesses, are acutely aware of declining Bud Light sales.

Montgomery, Ala. Steve Tatum, general manager of family-owned Bama Budweiser, paid for a local radio commercial To discuss Bud Light’s response. “We at Bama Budweiser are deeply troubled by this and have made our feelings known to Anheuser-Busch’s top leadership,” Mr. Tatum said in the ad. He said his company, an independent wholesaler, employs “about 100 people who live here, work here and our kids go to school here.”

Mr. Tatum did not respond to a request for comment.

Anheuser-Busch is also trying to remind the public of the people behind the beer. On Wednesday, the company released an ad campaign, “We Make the Beer,” that focuses on the many steps involved in making beer, as well as the individuals behind the process. It has also indicated that it may bring back the popular Bud Knight character to the ad as part of its effort to move on from the controversy.

The company is buying back or swapping out cases of Bud Light sitting in distributor warehouses when they reach a “best by” date. In June, the company unveiled a multi-pronged plan for its distributors that included sales incentive payments and reimbursement of freight and fuel charges through the end of the year, according to Beer Business Daily.

For Glenn Miller, the fallout from the Bud Light controversy hasn’t had much of a business impact. Operating since 1986, the retailer sells over 1,500 brands of beer in its 18,000-square-foot warehouse.

“So if a consumer decides against Bud Light, which is down 30 percent so far, they’re fine trying something else,” Rodney Miller, chief executive of Glenn Miller, said in an email. (Mr. Miller founded the retailer with his father, Glenn.)

Mr. Wagner echoed those sentiments as he walked through the aisles of the store.

He said of his customers, “It’s not like they stopped drinking beer.” “They’ve stopped buying Bud Light.”

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