Why Are Light Beer Sales Down?

5 06 2010

Photo Credit: dyobit CC

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal has a scathing article on the possibilities and probabilities of why sales of domestic light beers are down.

You can read it here.

The author points to bland, generic beers with moronic advertising and nonsensical gimmicks like “vortex bottles” and “Cold Activated Cans.” Personally, I think the author has a lot of valid points and I agree with him. But overall, I think he might be missing the major point: Bland, light American lagers are still the largest market share overall. A dip in the market might not point to much more than a result of the recession.

There are a lot of points I could make on this article. But I would just like to share with you one of my favorite parts from it.

P.T. Barnum would have admired the bunkum that goes into the packaging. Miller Lite is now presented in “vortex bottles.” That is, the glass on the inside of the neck is rifled and this, they promise, improves the flavor of the beer. Coors Light brags of its “cold activated” bottles and cans: The mountains on the labels turn blue when the product has been chilled.

Who knew that Americans needed temperature-sensitive packaging to tell them when a beer is cold enough to drink? (It’s always a bad sign when a company seems to think that its customers are morons.)

Thoughts? Could this be the end of light American lagers or will the industry have to work harder to keep our attention?




3 responses

5 06 2010

I imagine it’s a combination of things. I haven’t seen any numbers but it seems clear that “craft beer,” however you want to define it, is becoming popular enough to threaten “industrial” brands like Bud and Coors. Look at Budweiser’s “American Ale” and the change in the tone of beer ads to emphasize quality and flavor in the brewing process.
The gimmicks like wide-mouth cans and vortex rifling are part of the desperation of the food industry as a whole. They have to continually invent new ways of eating processed corn and soybeans, either by putting goop in a convenient squeezable tube or fortifying sugar water with “immune-boosting” vitamins and minerals.
So how long until we have MGD 64 with Iron and Vitamin B12, for anorexic hipsters?
At least PBR will never die.

6 06 2010

I agree, Andy. I tell people at work that there is nothing inherently wrong about drinking a Bud Light if that is what you want. I am offended by Anheuser-Busch telling us that their beer is made the best, with the best ingredients; or Keystone telling people that “bitter beers” are inferior products; or miller making up ridiculous assertions and nonsensical claims about their beer like “triple hopped” or packaging gimics like those listed above.

In short, there are times when all I want to drink is something light and refreshing. But we should never be convinced that life was better when that was the only choice.

6 06 2010
Neil Hatefuture

People showing more interest in craft brews might make them more readily avalible and cheaper, a big bonus for me. However the joy I get at being able to look down on your average person is worth so much more me. This is truly a sad trend.

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