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The Dawn of a New Beer Era: Bud Light Dethroned by Modelo

We’re raising a toast to mark the end of an era as Bud Light, the iconic blue-canned American beer, is no longer the reigning champ in the US beer market. After more than two decades at the top, Bud Light has been dethroned by its gold-foiled competitor, Modelo Especial.

This transformation in the beer world didn’t happen overnight, though. It’s the result of years-long trends, changing consumer tastes, and, more recently, a boycott that accelerated Bud Light’s descent from its No. 1 spot.

American beer drinkers’ love for Mexican import beers, along with a growing inclination toward wines, spirits, and seltzers, has been brewing for some time now. With the Mexican lager Modelo already on track to outstrip Bud Light by next year, the boycott instigated in response to Bud Light’s partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney only expedited the process.

Modelo has been relishing a robust growth phase, with double-digit expansion in at least 35 of the past 40 years. In contrast, Bud Light’s stronghold over US retail beer sales has been on a downhill slide for over a decade. Its market share dwindled from 19% in 2010 to 10% just before Mulvaney’s viral Instagram post, where she flaunted a personalized tallboy gifted by the company.

Since the April 1 post, Bud Light’s market share took a sharp downturn, plummeting to 7.3%, while Modelo soared to the top with an 8.4% share, as reported by consulting firm Bump Williams. Simultaneously, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bud Light’s parent company, saw its stock plunge by 15% amid a broader S&P 500 uptick.

Other members of the Anheuser-Busch beer family, such as Budweiser, Busch Light, and Michelob Ultra, have also felt the sting of declining sales since April. The fallout has even led some distributors, many family-owned independents, to contemplate layoffs to mitigate their losses.

In an ironic twist, Anheuser-Busch actually owns Grupo Modelo, the Mexican brewery that produces Modelo, Corona, and Pacifico, everywhere but the US. As part of an antitrust agreement in 2013, Anheuser-Busch sold the US rights to Modelo to Constellation Brands, owner of renowned brands like SVEDKA and Kim Crawford Wines. One can’t help but wonder if Anheuser-Busch is feeling a tinge of seller’s remorse.

As Bud Light’s reign ends, it’s clear that changing consumer preferences and social currents have a significant role to play in the beer industry’s dynamics. Entrepreneurs and investors alike should keep a watchful eye on these shifting trends, which are not just reshaping the beer market, but also the broader landscape of the beverage industry.