Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Bud Light has lost its top spot in the US beer market to Constellation Brands’ Modelo Especial, following a backlash from conservatives over a social media promotion with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Sales of Bud Light and Budweiser dropped 24.6 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively, for the four weeks ended June 3 from a year earlier, while Modelo Especial sales rose 10.2 percent, according to consulting company Bump Williams, which sources data from NielsenIQ.
The controversy dates back to early April, when TikTok star Mulvaney partnered with Bud Light to promote its ‘Easy Carry Contest’ that offered customers a chance to win $15,000 for uploading videos showing them carrying as many cans of beer as they could, a deal that she announced in an Instagram post.
That led to fierce criticism from conservatives who took to social media and called for a boycott of Bud Light. Singer Kid Rock put up his own video on Instagram showing him shooting a rifle at cases of Bud Light. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, too, slammed the beer maker.
In May, AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris said it was too early to have a full view of the impact of the backlash that triggered transphobic comments on social media and a boycott by some beer drinkers.
Conservative backlash has hit retailer Target as well, with the company removing some LGBTQ-themed goods due to confrontations between customers and employees and incidents of Pride merchandise being thrown on the floor.
‘Bud Light’s stumble’
Shares of AB InBev had outperformed Molson Coors and Constellation Brands for the first three months of the year, but are now trending lower after the backlash against Bud Light intensified in April.
“Bud Light’s stumble with Dylan Mulvaney will certainly hurt their chances to take market share, but Miller Lite, Coors Light and Modelo will reap most of those rewards,” said Jon Reynolds, a certified instructor in the business of craft beer at the University of Vermont.
Constellation’s Modelo Especial was the top-selling beer brand in the United States with an 8.4 percent share of overall beer sales through retail stores for the period ending June 3, data from Bump Williams showed.
Bud Light came in second with a 7.3 percent share.
AB InBev’s overall sales growth declined 12 percent in the four weeks ended May 20, data from NielsenIQ and TD Cowen showed.
TD Cowen analyst Vivien Azer said the decline would “fully capture the boycott”, compared with the 3.6 percent decline in sales growth AB InBev witnessed for the four weeks ended April 22.
Even before the backlash, sales volumes of established “light” brands had slid at a faster pace than the US beer sector as a whole over the past six years, according to Euromonitor International, as drinkers drifted to craft beers first and then to hard seltzers.