The beer industry has transformed dramatically in the past 80 years, but one constant has remained, and that is the number one selling beers have evolved generationally every 15 to 20 years. A more recent change is the method in which the industry now measures success in terms of the number one selling brands. On might say, this measure of success is like putting lipstick on a pig?
For 16 years, Pearl was the number one selling beer in Texas. Pearl’s run came to an end in 1969 when Schlitz becoming the top seller in the state. Texas, like other states at that time, had a popular local brand which maintained its sales lead for years. Beginning in 1966, Coors expanded into North Texas and became the leading brand in that region of the state, Schlitz, however, maintained the overall volume in Texas. Schlitz retained the lead until the early 1980s when Miller Lite became the front-runner. A generation later, it was Bud Light, a brand which is currently losing its position after holding the lead for years.
IRI data for the 52 week period ending February 24th shows Bud Light down -8.8% while Miller Lite, the number two brand, is down -3.6% for the same period. These measurements are in dollars, NOT volume! Total dollar sales in Texas are also down by -1.3%. On the plus side, Ultra is now the number three best-selling by dollars at a +19.7%, surpassing Coors light. If Ultra’s trends continue, it will be in the number two position by the end of the year.
Modelo is also flying high and will soon pass both Budweiser (down) and Corona (flat) by the end of the year. Again, these statistics are all reflective of the dollar amount. Such measurements hide the industry’s overall decline in volume, but also show how this generation of beer buyers is buying up. In other words, the current age group of consumers is willing to spend more for their beer.
Similar to the other changes discussed, Pearl, a regionally priced beer, lost its ranking to Schlitz, a nationally priced beer, who lost it’s ranking to Miller Lite, a slightly more expensive beer. It should be noted that when introduced, Lite was a slightly higher price for the retailer. Now we are seeing the growth of Ultra, an even steeper priced beer.
This increase in dollar volume is great for the industry but the question arises: Is the industry trading volume for dollars? Each generation of beer drinkers has raised the price of the product, and for years the industry continued to successfully grow. Recently, however, or since InBev bought AB, industry volume has decreased as prices have increase. A case in point is MolsonCoors and other domestic brands.
Now market share is all about dollars, not volume. Does that really measure the brand or does it simply measure the consumer? Globally, ABI is at 57% of dollar share, where their volume share is only 33%. These numbers alone make it simple to understand why dollars are now used to explain share. Currently, dollars are over half the market whereas volume is only a third of the market.
Both measurement for ABI and MolsonCoors are down, yet the opposite is true for Constellation Brands. In ten years or so another generation of buyers will be defining the direction of the beer industry. Based on the past history, the only thing we can be certain of is that the newest buyers’ choice of segment will be at a higher price point. Who cares about volume!!
Brands are born, not created…