Bud­weiser slips to No. 4 among U.S. beer choices

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Mike Snider USA TO­DAY

The king of beers has of­fi­cially been de­throned.

Bud­weiser no longer is among the top three best-sell­ing beers in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to Beer Mar­keter’s In­sights, as peo­ple drink less beer or switch to craft brews, wine or spir­its. Miller Lite has sup­planted Bud­weiser as the No. 3 fa­vorite beer, be­hind No. 1 Bud Light and No. 2 Coors Light, ac­cord­ing to 2017 es­ti­mates from the trade publi­ca­tion, which has tracked the in­dus­try for more than 40 years.

Bud­weiser, which gave up the top spot to Bud Light in 2001, holds a 6.2% mar­ket share of beer shipped from U.S. brew­eries to whole­salers for dis­tri­bu­tion in the U.S., down from 6.6% in 2016. Coors Light, which took over the No. 2 spot in 2011, saw its share dip to 7.6% from 7.9%. Miller Lite’s share fell, too, but by less, to 6.1% from 6.2%.

When you sub­tract ex­ports, Miller Lite sold more beer in the U.S., BMI says. “Of course, Bud glob­ally is much larger,” BMI ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor Eric Shep­ard says.

Over­all, trends sug­gest peo­ple are drink­ing less beer. Top-seller Bud Light shipped 2 mil­lion fewer bar­rels in 2017, BMI es­ti­mates, and Bud­weiser ship­ments fell by 975,000 bar­rels.

Peo­ple may be spend­ing more for beer, how­ever. Sales rose 1.2% to $34.4 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to IRI, a Chicagob­ased mar­ket re­search firm that tracks sales at su­per­mar­kets and other re­tail out­lets (ac­count­ing for about half of to­tal U.S. beer vol­ume).

Craft beer sales, which con­tinue to rise, have made up about half of the vol­ume lost by the big beer brands. To­tal craft beer sales rose more than 1 mil­lion bar­rels to 25 mil­lion bar­rels to­tal, com­pared with 10.7 mil­lion bar­rels in 2010, BMI es­ti­mates. But some big craft beer brands, in­clud­ing No. 1 craft beer brewer Bos­ton Beer Co., maker of Sa­muel Adams beers, and No. 2 Sierra Nevada Brew­ing Co., saw sales drop in 2017 by

300,000 and 80,000 bar­rels, re­spec­tively.

“Beer per capita con­sump­tion has been drop­ping for about a decade, (with beer) giv­ing up share to spir­its and wine,” Shep­ard said.

The two brands listed with the big­gest in­creases in ship­ments in 2017: Mich­e­lob Ul­tra, also made by An­heuser-Busch, which in­creased ship­ments by

21% to make it the No. 6 ma­jor beer, and No. 8 craft brew­ery Founders Brew­ing Co., which in­creased ship­ments 34%.

While some beer drinkers switched from Bud Light and one of the other top beers to im­ports or craft beers, oth­ers have switched to spir­its and wine, he says. “Mil­len­ni­als are es­pe­cially pro­mis­cu­ous drinkers, of­ten drink­ing across all three cat­e­gories even on the same oc­ca­sion,” Shep­ard said.

Re­gard­less of the de­cline, Bud­weiser re­mains “the leader of the clas­sic lager seg­ment,” said Ri­cardo Mar­ques, the brand’s vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing, and “con­tin­ues to see con­sis­tent im­prove­ments in brand health and con­sid­er­a­tion, with con­sid­er­a­tion be­ing the No. 1 in­di­ca­tor of fu­ture sales. Bud­weiser is in a strong po­si­tion for the fu­ture.”

Bud­weiser gave up the top spot to Bud Light in 2001. AN­HEUSER-BUSCH INBEV

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