Too Cold for a Cold One? Big Beer Companies Blame Mother Nature for Slumping Sales

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Does bad weather correlate with less drinking? Well, perhaps it does with certain kinds of drinking. Unseasonably cold weather in Brazil, Europe and the U.S. is being blamed as one of the reasons sales are down in early 2013 for Bud Light, Miller Lite, Heineken and other mass-produced brews favored at picnics and tailgates.

As more drinkers turn to craft beer, spirits and wine, they’ve been snubbing the ubiquitous brews that have been featured in TV ads for decades. Budweiser, the “king of beers,” saw sales decline 4.4% in 2011, for example, followed by another dip of around 6% last year.

So the recent reports indicating that Anheuser-Busch InBev’s sales volume in the U.S. declined 5% in the first quarter of 2013 don’t come as much of a surprise. Neither does the news, highlighted in an AdAge story, that A-B InBev’s flagship Bud and Bud Light brands were down 7.7% and 6%, respectively, for the four-week sales period ending April 13. Miller Lite sales, meanwhile, declined 8.8% during that same four-week span, and Coors Light and Heineken experienced sales decreases as well.

(MORE: Trouble Brewing? The Craft Beer vs. ‘Crafty’ Beer Catfight)

Yet even as diminishing sales for these well-known brands clearly seem to be part of a larger trend that’s been in the works for years as consumer tastes change, beer manufacturers are pointing to poor weather, higher taxes and rising gas prices as reasons why sales are down.

In late April, Heineken CFO Rene Hooft Graafland told analysts that bad weather in Europe and North America was partially to blame for the brand suffering a 4.7% global sales slump at the end of last year. This week, Carlos Brito, CEO of A-B InBev, the world’s largest beer company, said sales were down thanks to poor weather and food inflation in Brazil, as well as higher gas prices and weather in early 2013 that was considerably colder in the U.S. than the previous year.

Indeed, weather does seem to play a factor in sales of certain beers. “Light lagers [like Bud Light and Miller Lite] are more susceptible to unseasonably cold weather than either craft beer or spirits, which are typically imbibed more indoors,” Harry Schuhmacher, editor of Beer Business Daily, explained to AdAge via e-mail.

(MORE: Budweiser’s New Bowtie-Can Design: More Aluminum, Less Beer)

But so-so weather is hardly the only reason big-beer sales have been hurting. In a report released on Monday (quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Bernstein Research senior analyst Trevor Stirling wrote, “A-B InBev’s core issue in our view is that its brands have failed to capture the imagination of key demographics such as young women and aspirational young men who have instead beaten a path to the spirits and wine categories, as well as craft beer and imports.”

11 comments
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megapotamus
megapotamus

Unseasonably cold weather in Brazil, Europe and the U.S. but clearly, the globe is warming.


FancyLads
FancyLads

“A-B InBev’s core issue in our view is that its brands have failed to capture the imagination of key demographics such as young women and aspirational young men who have instead beaten a path to the spirits and wine categories"

Lol, that reads like a New York Times cliche, straight out of the "PC commentary" how-to handbook. I wonder if he even thought about the question before he wrote that.

MaxThirn
MaxThirn

Sales of Bud Light and Miller Lite are down because consumers are coming around to the realization that they SUCK!

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Now that Bud is not American owned a few people no longer buy it.  But more just wised up that it is terrible beer, Miller Lite I only drink if I am working outside on the weekend or whatever and don't want to get too drunk or dehydrated!   

alicewalker771
alicewalker771

This article seems to be on target, however there is one thing that isn't mentioned...a lot of those craft brews aren't what they appear to be. The major companies like A-B and Coors-Miller have been buying up many of the craft brews as they get successful. They are smart enough to realize that with the image they have they would never have been able to compete in the craft brew market. I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with what they are doing, I just like it when everything is transparent.

piter
piter

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padgettsemi
padgettsemi

Sounds to me that the big beer manufacturers are more in denial than anything else. They can attribute declining sales to the weather all they want but that doesn't fix the public's shift to tastier craft beers.

Hitman8D
Hitman8D

Total beer sales has been dropping for a few years. 

However, craft brewed beer sales have been increasing for several years. More craft beer breweries open every year.  What do they attribute to the increased sales of craft brewed beer?


Just like the old American car manufacturers, they didn't stay up with the times and got their butts kicks by the Japanese and other foreign car manufactures; the Budweisers and Miller didn't keep up with the times and Americans want a different beer.


Sure, AB and Miller still sell more than craft beers, but times are changing. American beer consumers want a higher quality product.

richard40
richard40

But remember there is no such a thing a Global Warming now, its called Climate Change.  And Climate Change can occur in either direction, but whichever direction it occurs it is always our fault, and only worldwide socialism can fix it.  See how simple it is, and how obviously wrong you must be.  You must be one of those deniers.

segesta65
segesta65

@alicewalker771 Some of the (sort-of) craft brews bought by InBev, like Goose Island, still make very good beer. Especially their premium beers like Matilda, Sofie, etc. But those dweebs committed to Beer Drama will always say that big corporations automatically ruin their acquisitions.

Full disclosure: I live in Chicago, and am a longtime Goose Island fan.