Beer business expert Harry Schuhmacher fears that Bud Light’s decline and loss of customers is “quasi-permanent.”
Schuhmacher, the publisher of Beer Business Daily, said in a Fox News interview this week that the customers whom Bud Light has hemorrhaged over its partnership with Dylan Mulvaney are most likely gone forever.
“You see Bud Light still just stubbornly down around 30% in volume compared to last year, which is where it’s been since May or June. That tells me that this is quasi-permanent, meaning those consumers are just lost forever,” he said.
He added that Bud Light is likely to continue to see declines for the “foreseeable future,” or “at least until April and May of 2024 when they lap the controversy.”
“I think the industry thought it would have rebounded by now, but it hasn’t. It’s actually worse than just lost sales because now it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming systemic within the industry, and they’re losing the confidence of the retailers and that’s when it starts getting bad,” he said.
Schuhmacher further explained that once retailers lose confidence, a product is bound to lose shelf space and display space.
“You see those end caps at the end of aisles at the grocery store? When you start losing those, it’s bad because you not only lose store visibility, but you also lose being able to load a lot of inventory into the store. Displays are a big tool for the beer industry to move beer, and that could be concerning to AB,” he said.
AB InBev is the parent company of BudLight.
Continuing his remarks to Fox News, Schuhmacher predicted that summer 2024 could be a break it or make it moment for the beer brand.
“They’re somewhat powerless to fix it, except to remain really active in their local communities, which they’ve done and which they’ve always done. And really, that’s kind of the only saving grace for that brand is those local connections that the wholesalers have,” he said.
“But it’s been a rough summer for those guys, you know, shout out to them, and it’s probably going to be a rough winter. We’ve never seen anything like this in the beer industry,” he added.
As previously reported, the controversy at Bud Light erupted in the spring after the brand decided to pursue a business partnership with Mulvaney, a biological male who purports to be a “transgender woman.”
The brand specifically produced a special can featuring Mulvaney’s face. Also, the transgender influencer posted the following Instagram post advertising Bud Light:
View this post on Instagram
The backlash was swift.
“In the two days since Mulvaney’s post about Bud Light, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch, countless videos have been shared online showing consumers dumping their Bud Light products in trash bins and down sinks — and even violently destroying cans of the beer,” NBC News reported at the time.
Several conservative celebrities got in on the boycott as well.
For example, country music star Travis Tritt revealed that he’d be deleting Anheuser-Busch products from his tour hospitality rider. Meanwhile, rock star Kid Rock used Bud Light cans for target practice with his guns.
Months later, BudLight and AB in general have yet to recover.
“Anheuser-Busch InBev reported a steep drop in profits as a result of the boycott, with U.S. revenue dropping 10.5% in the second quarter, while earnings before taxes, interest and depreciation fell 28.2%. The company has laid off hundreds of workers amid the fallout,” according to Fox News.
That said, Schuhmacher claimed that some of AB’s other brands that were also affected by the boycott have started to recover.
“While Bud Light continues to struggle. Anheuser-Busch’s other brands have rebounded a little bit. And so, we’re not seeing those deep cuts in Busch, Busch Light, Michelob Ultra, Natural, those have come back. That’s a little bit of good news for that company that you can point to there,” he said.
As for AB, it has, as previously reported, begun to distance itself from Mulvaney.
— BizPac Review (@BIZPACReview) May 7, 2023
In a letter sent in May to wholesalers, the company stressed that the decision to involve Mulvaney with Bud Light wasn’t supposed to have been part of an advertisement.
“This was one single can given to one social media influencer. It was not made for production or sale to the general public. This can is not a formal campaign or advertisement,” the letter read.
The company also claimed that the brand had never meant to make some kind of political statement and that the one can had been given to Mulvaney because of a bad decision made by a third-party advertising agency.
“Anheuser-Busch did not intend to create controversy or make a political statement. In reality, the Bud Light can posted by a social media influencer that sparked all the conversation was provided by an outside agency without Anheuser-Busch management awareness or approval,” the letter read.
“Since that time, the lack of oversight and control over marketing decisions has been addressed and a new VP of Bud Light marketing has been announced,” it continued.
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