U.S. Beer Consumption Drops to Lowest Level in a Generation

tendata blogTrade Trends News

ten data blog04-01-2024

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It's not just Bud Light.


Last year, beer consumption in the U.S. reached its lowest level in a generation as consumers shifted from traditional favorites to other forms of alcoholic beverages and, increasingly, avoided alcoholic beverages altogether, according to industry group Beer Marketer's Insights.


"It's been a tough year for beer," said David Steinman, BMI vice president and executive editor.


For the first time since 1999, beer shipments fell below 200 million barrels, he said.


Steinman said it was Anheuser-Busch that led the decline. However, Steinman said that while the Bud Light maker made headlines for its sponsorship deal with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which subsequently led to a boycott by some longtime drinkers, the protests don't explain why overall consumption is still down.


Instead, Steinman said, Anheuser-Busch is at the forefront of accelerating the so-called long-term decline of the country's premium brands, which include Bud Light and its rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light. Anheuser Busch, part of global conglomerate Budweiser InBev, has also suffered from declining sales of hard sodas - a category it has long dominated.


The beer industry also now finds itself facing competition from a slew of new alcohol products, many of which come from nontraditional producers, said Lester Jones, vice president of analytics and chief economist for the American Beer Wholesalers Association.


"For example, some of the world's largest soft drink and energy companies have introduced sugar-sweetened alcoholic beverages to the market, all of which are competing for the same consumption occasions as traditional malt and hop products," he said in an e-mail.


Steinman said that despite the decline in overall consumption, the largest brewers have remained financially resilient as prices have risen in line with or even exceeded inflation. Beer consumers also continue to turn to more expensive beer brands, especially imports such as Modelo Especial, which became the No. 1 beer in the U.S. in 2023.


Beer sales in the rest of the world continue to be strong, Steinman said.


"Dollar sales continue to grow and profits are up as prices rise," he said.


Nonetheless, significant headwinds remain. the craft beer boom of the 2010s has faded, and with the wide variety of alcoholic beverages now available, consumers may be overwhelmed.


Jones said, "The U.S. beer industry is experiencing a frenzy in 2023 against the backdrop of an expanding economy that is creating more jobs and wage growth for many, and an oversupplied alcohol market that is leading to a rapid influx of new products."




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