- As consumers' beer tastes have changed, major light beer brands have begun falling out of favor, losing significant U.S. beer market share to the burgeoning craft beer industry and imported brands.
- Major light beer brands held a 35.5% share of the overall U.S. beer market in 2007, when those brands' market share peaked. But that share has since tumbled to 31.8%, while craft and imported beer snagged larger shares of the market over that time.
- To counter this sales free fall, major light beer brands have zeroed in on adjusting their marketing strategy and packaging to appeal to their core and other newly targeted demographics. Sometimes this has involved a complete overhaul of marketing, including new spots, new agencies, and new executives.
Though summer is generally light beer's peak season, this year the summer brought dismal sales, including a 3.3% decline in volumes for Bud Light and a 0.7% drop in volumes for Coors Light for the three months ended Sept. 5, according to Nielsen data per Morgan Stanley.
Miller Lite, however, did see a 1.8% increase in volumes after reporting volume declines for seven straight years. The company has been focusing on various marketing and branding efforts, including returning to its original blue-and-white packaging and bringing back steinie bottles for a limited time.
The Wall Street Journal called this decline "a significant factor driving a merger boom in the beer industry." Some have been craft acquisitions, such as Heineken's 50% stake in Lagunitas, Anheuser-Busch InBev's acquisition of Golden Road Brewing, its fifth craft brewery in five years, and MillerCoors's acquisition of Saint Archer Brewing Co, its first craft acquisition. Acquiring craft breweries can help major beer companies offset the issues they're seeing with their light beer brands.
Now a potential takeover of SABMiller by AB InBev has been in the spotlight. "A deal would reduce AB InBev’s dependence on the U.S. market at the same time that sales of Bud Light have declined for six straight quarters," according to The Wall Street Journal. AB InBev raised its bid to $103.6 billion.