Bud Light distributors no longer expect sales to recover from Dylan Mulvaney disaster

Many Anheuser-Busch distributors say they are resigned to their painful Bud Light losses — and that they have given up on luring back disaffected customers following the Dylan Mulvaney fiasco, The Post has learned.

After four months of hiring freezes and layoffs — with some beer-truck drivers getting heckled and harassed even as Bud Light sales have dropped by more than 25% — Anheuser-Busch wholesalers have accepted that they have lost a chunk of their customers for good — and need to focus on a new crop of drinkers.

“Consumers have made a choice,” said an executive at a Texas-based beer distributor who did not want to be identified. “They have left [Bud Light] and that’s how it’s going to be. I don’t envision a big percentage of them coming back.”

Sales of other Anheuser-Busch beers including Budweiser, Michelob Ultra and Busch Light also have been in decline since Bud Light’s marketing tie-up with transgender influencer Mulvaney.

What’s more, those lost customers have likely found that Bud Light’s competitors, including Coors Light and Miller Lite “are a very similar product.” Winning the beer wars comes down to “whoever is best at marketing,” the executive said.

Dylan Mulvaney’s marketing partnership with Bud Light began on April 1.

“There is an increasing feeling that this [Bud Light] decline rate could last for a while and the distributors are worried about losing those drinkers to other similar brands,” David Steinmann, executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, told The Post.

A pair of social media posts by Mulvaney on April 1 – holding a 16 oz can of Bud Light with her image on it and another of her sitting a bubble bath surrounded by Bud Light cans – sparked a backlash that has lasted longer than most anticipated.

“The strategy of targeting younger, newer consumers is the right one,” Michael Stone, chairman of Beanstalk Group, a New York-based branding firm told The Post. “But Anheuser-Busch made a mistake executing on the strategy.”

One silver lining for beleaguered Anheuser-Busch distributors is the rise of Modelo Especial – the No. 2 beer brand which Anheuser-Busch owns outside of the US.

Rival Constellation Brands distributes Modelo in the US, where it has been outselling Bud Light on a weekly basis since May.

Kegs of beer in a Bud Light truck.
Anheuser-Busch distributors don’t believe that the Bud Light customers who have left the brand will ever come back.
Alamy Stock Photo

“What’s helping distributors is having Modelo in their portfolio,” the beer executive said. “But if you don’t have Constellation you are in a pickle.”

While Bud Light remains the No. 1 beer brand in the U.S. those days are likely numbered with Modelo expected to overtake it by the end August, experts say.

Even before the Mulvaney disaster, beer suppliers have been fighting a broader crisis.

Beer has long been the No. 1 alcoholic drink in the world and the beverage of choice for new drinkers, but just last year spirits surpassed beer for the first time ever in the US. 

Hard liquor accounted for 42.1% market share in 2022 compared to beer’s 41.9% market share, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

A Bud Light driver carrying cases of beer.
More drinkers are choosing hard liquor over beer, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The increasing popularity of ready to drink cocktails is fueling the trend away from beer. In response, breweries are partnering with spirits companies that are making canned cocktails.

Those include Cutwater Spirits, which Anheuser-Busch bought in 2019. The craft distillery is now part of Anheuser’s “Beyond Beer.”

Beer distributors and suppliers want to win over so-called ‘legal age drinkers,’ before they acquire a taste for other alcoholic beverages.

“There are so many different options for coming of age drinkers today,” the beer executive said.

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