Bud Light, once America’s top-selling beer, continues to struggle in the aftermath of its ill-fated partnership with transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney. Drinkers who were once loyal to the brand are now seemingly lost forever, with sales remaining stagnant at around 30% below last year’s volume, according to Beer Business Daily publisher Harry Schuhmacher.
Schuhmacher’s observations come on the heels of news that Bud Light managed to win back only 15% of the boycotting consumers. The beer giant has fallen behind Modelo in the rankings and is experiencing significant declines, with a 26.9% drop in dollars and a 30.3% decrease in volume, as reported by a study conducted by Bump Williams Consulting. Schuhmacher predicts that Bud Light will likely face similar year-over-year declines for the foreseeable future, at least until April and May of 2024 when the controversy is expected to fade.
The industry had anticipated a faster rebound, but the situation has worsened. It is not just lost sales that are concerning; Bud Light is now facing systemic issues within the industry and losing the confidence of retailers. Schuhmacher emphasizes that next summer will be a crucial period for assessing the brand’s long-term success as it endeavors to regain its once-devoted following. However, a challenging winter lies ahead for Bud Light, with its only saving grace being the strong connections it maintains with wholesalers.
Schuhmacher notes that wholesalers are somewhat powerless to rectify the situation, except to remain actively engaged in their local communities, which they have been doing consistently. These local connections are the brand’s sole source of hope. The unprecedented nature of the decline has left industry experts stunned.
The controversy erupted when Anheuser-Busch InBev sent Mulvaney a personalized beer can featuring her face to commemorate her 365th day of girlhood as part of a March Madness partnership. This move instantly drew criticism, including from Kid Rock, who protested by filming himself shooting Bud Light cans. Mulvaney, a former theater actor and breakout TikTok star, spoke out against the immense transphobia and hate she encountered since gaining influence. She called for public support of transgender individuals and ended her statement by expressing love and a desire to enjoy a beer.