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More bad news for Bud Light as Modelo soars in sales

<i>Mario Tama/Getty Images</i><br/>Bottles of Modelo Especial beer are displayed for sale in a grocery store on June 14
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Bottles of Modelo Especial beer are displayed for sale in a grocery store on June 14

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN

New York (CNN) — Modelo Especial is now officially America’s best-selling beer, dethroning Bud Light, whose popularity faded following the Dylan Mulvaney controversy.

Sales of Modelo at grocery and beer stores have surpassed Bud Light’s over the course of 2023, according to newly released NIQ data, the first time Modelo has ever beaten Bud Light on a year-to-date basis. There’s a tight race to the top, with Modelo landing in first place, gaining 8.34% share of dollars spent on beer vs. 8.28% for Bud Light through August 12.

It’s a significant move for Modelo since Bud Light has held the position of America’s top-selling beer for the large part of the past two decades.

Summer has been a bright spot for the Mexican lager, with Modelo surpassing Bud Light in May, June and July monthly sales. Modelo has held a 9.1 share for the past four weeks as Bud Light slipped to a 7 share of off-premise beer sales.

Modelo’s move to the top “seemed inevitable for at least the last several months, but the timeline accelerated since Bud Light’s trends dramatically worsened in April,” Benj Steinman is the president of Beer Marketer’s Insights, told CNN. “And it happened far faster than most people expected.”

However, there’s been some “material improvement,” for the Anheuser-Busch (BUD) brand Bud Light, according to Beer Business Daily, a trade publication. NIQ data shows that in recent weeks, Bud Light volumes were down 26.7%, which is slightly better than the roughly -30% the brand has been enduring since spring.

“It may be too early to call the bottom, as one week does not a trend make. But it’s a hopeful sign for the beleaguered brand, particularly if the trend improves sequentially in subsequent weeks,” BBD wrote in Tuesday’s newsletter.

Modelo is distributed by New York-based Constellation Brands (STZ). The company posted an 11% increase in sales in its second-quarter earnings, released in June, bolstered by its beer business, which also includes Corona.

Greg Gallagher, vice president of brand marketing for Constellation, recently told CNN that Modelo has been “enjoying an incredible run of success” for the past several years and said that it wants to expand the dominance it has with Hispanic drinkers to more demographics. “Our growth is in maintaining that core but also bringing in non-Hispanic customers, and we’re having incredible success,” he said.

Other Bud Light competitors have seen sales grow this year too, including Molson Coors (TAP). Earlier this month, the brewer of Miller Lite and Coors Light beers reported its single best quarter of revenue since its 2005 merger. The combined US sales of its two flagship beers outsold Bud Light by 50% in the second quarter and were 30% higher than Modelo Especial, it said.

US beer sales have been completely upended following Bud Light’s decision to send a customized can to transgender influencer Mulvaney, which sparked a transphobic backlash and alienated some of the company’s core customer base. The company’s subsequent response then angered members of the LGBTQ community.

Anheuser-Busch said in early August that its US revenue fell 10% in the second quarter as sales of its top brand slumped.

Sales to US retailers declined by 14%, underperforming the wider beer industry, primarily due to the decline in the volume of Bud Light it sold, the company reported. Revenue fell $395 million in North America during the period, compared to the same time a year ago. That figure included sales in Canada, where revenue rose, suggesting the slump was isolated to the United States and that the losses on Bud Light may have been even greater.

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