As Beer Sales Drop, Some Brands Suffer More Than Others

SUFFERN, N.Y. -- Beer sales struggled through a few challenging years between 2007 and 2012, and some beer brands did not weather the 2.3-percent drop in overall beer sales as well as others.

New data released by Beer Marketer's Insights indicates that U.S. sales of nine major beer brands, including Budweiser, declined by more than 25 percent over the past five years. Michelob Light's U.S. sales declined by nearly 70 percent, reported USA Today.

According to Eric Shepard, executive editor at Beer Marketer's Insights, major brewers point to the lingering effects of the recession as the reason beer sales are down, the newspaper reported. Conversely, wine and spirits have done much better, especially as they've added flavored brands.

"The [beer] brewers have dabbled in that and have had some success with, for example, Redd's Apple Ale, but nowhere near the success that flavored vodkas and flavored whiskeys have had," Shepard said.

On the upside, flavored and craft beers have performed well in a sector that is otherwise on the downswing -- notably specialty beers with creative labels and a slightly higher alcohol content. Bud Platinum, which has a higher alcohol content than major beer brands, sold 1.8 million cases when it was introduced in 2012, becoming the 19th best-selling mainstream beer in the country last year, the report noted.

Although this trend has had an impact on the industry and hurt the beers that declined the most between 2007 and 2012, most of these brands have been losing ground for much longer than the past five years.

"The history of beer brands in the U.S. has generally been -- and there are exceptions -- once they start to decline, it's very, very difficult to reverse it," Shepard explained.

According to USA Today, there are nine beers Americans no longer drink based on Beer Marketer's Insights' top beer brands with at least 600,000 barrels in sales in either 2007 or 2012, and with sales declines of 30 percent or more over that same period. The brands are: Labatt Blue, Budweiser, Heineken Premium Light, Milwaukee's Best Light, Old Milwaukee, Miller Genuine Draft, Milwaukee's Best Premium, Budweiser Select, and Michelob Light.

Sales of less than 600,000 barrels can result in less reliable data, Shepard acknowledged.

Amstel Light, which was identified as one of the beer brands with the biggest drops in last year's analysis, was not considered this year because it had less than 600,000 barrels in sales both years. Flavored malt beverages and craft beer brands are also excluded from the analysis.

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