Friday, May 3, 2013

Couldn't Stand the Weather

Alas Stevie Ray, the big boys of brewing are feeling your lament, as well.

ABInbev is down 5%, MillerCoors is reporting a 3.3% drop—in the U.S.—and Heineken took a loss of 4.7%, globally, in the first quarter of 2013.

And why you ask? What could be possibly be the cause of all this slippage?

The weather—of course.

According to Harry Schuhmacher, the editor of Beer Business Daily, and reported on both AdAge and Time's websites, the macro-beer industry is blaming the weather for its dipping sales. Schuhmacher stated in an email to AdAge:
“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,”
Annheuser-Busch is reporting a more than 10% loss on Budweiser over the last two years, and Bud Lite—the best selling beer in the world—wasn't so "best selling" last quarter either, with a 6% drop, as well. Their new line of Bud Lite Platinum seems to be faltering slightly too, after what was a fairly successful roll-out. Bud Lites' biggest competitor, MillerCoors' Miller Lite didn't fair any better, dipping almost 9% in the same period. In fact, the only big brewer really making a decent go of the American market is Corona and their importer Crown Imports, who reported a slight sales increase last fiscal year.

I think big beer might be missing the forrest for the trees. Yeah, I can see how the weather might affect sales in the short term, but there's obviously a systemic problem in macro lager production. It's not one thing, or even two things—it a swarm of issues that have finally caught up with them. It amazes me that the big beer makers seem to be oblivious as to what happened to the big American auto manufacturers. Are they not following an almost identical path?

The solution is simple—so simple it's almost laughable.

 Make good beer.

By the way—this all applies to our crafty friends, too.


  1. Yes. Too far from the beer culture I think, still too wedded to the marketing/image view of beer. It will probably change as younger managers and brewmasters take the helm. I think they will have to. The steps to date, e.g. Budweiser American Ale (which isn't bad but should have been released 20 years ago), the Michelob line (largely uninspiring IMO), and other small essays into something different just haven't made a mark. I think the answer is to introduce an 1876-style Budweiser. Make the original 1896 (draft-only) formulation of Michelob. It's all surely in their archives, hop rates in the 1800's were similar or often greater than what craft brewers are using today. Perhaps a brand new product is the answer but it has to be a world-beatre, like say Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has been. The have to put their shoulder to the wheel otherwise the future is ever-more consolidation and the penetration of Euro-brands of which two or three will dominate the market. Corona is a kind of exception to this trend I think because first, it is still in the process of penetrating the heartland. Second, it probably has taken some share from the domestic majors. Third, when fresh it is pretty good, I prefer it to Budweiser or Miller Lite, say.


  2. I think everybody realizes that if ABInBev or MillerCoors chose to make fantastic beer, they could—and more to the point, they could make a shit ton of it. They can't seem to get it together to do that (which is great for the craft industry). Again it's a mirroring of the American auto industry—mediocre cars and mediocre beer for decades.

  3. They easily could - SAB Miller already does this with PIlsner Urquell, one of the world's best beers. They have to get with the parade but there has been a lot of resistance seemingly. Heineken went (back to) all-malt 20 years ago, that is a precedent where they saw the trends early. Some brewers are going the other way: Stella Artois to me tastes very little like I remember it in Belgium around 1990. But the U.S. market is different I think, once a brand is regarded as old-fashioned it is difficult to reverse it and I believe this is happening now to Budweiser as it did to the regular Coors.