Anheuser-Busch’s next move must involve clear communication about Bud Light’s purpose and what customers the brand will serve moving forward, according to former Anheuser-Busch executive and Strive Asset Management co-founder Anson Frericks.
The company “needs to clearly come out and state what the purpose of their corporation is and what the purpose of brands like Bud Light are and who the customers are for those brands,” Frericks told FOX Business in a Wednesday interview. He referenced Anheuser-Busch’s broader mission of “dreaming big to create a future with more cheers,” something he argued “they obviously haven’t done in this situation with Bud Light.”
Bud Light created and sent to transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney custom beer cans in early April to mark her “365 days of girlhood,” a move that sparked a backlash that has been going on for two months and has led some beer drinkers to swear off the brand.
“Historically, Bud Light has always been easy to drink, easy to enjoy because it didn’t get involved in controversial political issues,” he said. “It was a brand that was about sports, it was about music, and it was about backyard barbecues. That’s what made it into the largest beer brand in the country because it was shared by all people. It was already one of the most inclusive brands that was out there.”
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“I think they need to be clear about that moving forward. That for a brand like Bud Light, it is going to not get involved in political issues moving forward.”
With the backlash and boycotts ongoing, Bud Light has recently been seeing declines in sales compared to a year ago.
FOX Business previously reported NielsenIQ data for the four weeks ending May 27, provided by Bump Williams Consulting, that showed Bud Light had experienced a 24.5% decrease in sales compared to a year ago. In a somewhat smaller decline to the week ending May 20, its sales on a dollar basis for the week following that one were down 23.9% year over year, according to the data.
The backlash will continue “until Anheuser-Busch is going to come out and make a clear statement,” according to Frericks. The Strive Asset Management co-founder went on to suggest the company’s responses so far haven’t been clear enough position-wise.
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In mid-April, Anheuser-Busch put out a statement in which CEO Brendan Whitworth said he was “responsible for ensuring every customer feels proud of the beer we brew” and that the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people.”
The controversy with Bud Light also received commentary from Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris, who told those on the most recent earnings call that it was “too early to have a full view” on the impact on Bud Light sales.
“But I know that we have the people, the partners to learn from that, to continue to move forward and to come out stronger,” he said.
There have been other moves at the company as well. A pair of Bud Light marketing executives reportedly went on leave, and plans for limited-edition “Folds of Honor” aluminum Bud Light bottles were recently unveiled.
Meanwhile, competitor beers have been experiencing a boost.
Sales of Yuengling Traditional Lager had a lift of 31.3% in the four weeks ending May 27, per the NielsenIQ data from Bump Williams Consulting. Within that same period, Miller Lite and Coors Light of Molson Coors climbed 21.3% and 23.5%, respectively, in terms of sales on a dollar basis.
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Such brands could get more space on shelves for the fall in the potential event that improvement isn’t seen by retailers with Bud Light’s sales, Frericks told FOX Business.
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“That’s why it’s critical for Anheuser-Busch in the next month or so to really figure out their strategy moving forward and get sales turned around now because otherwise, once that shelf space goes away, it’s incredibly difficult to get it back,” he said.
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s stock has also seen a 15% plunge in price in the past month, with it having dropped more than that since April 1. Meanwhile, its market capitalization was $94.99 billion as of Thursday afternoon.
One thing Frericks said he thinks the company could do to move past the controversy with Bud Light is “by saying we’re going to be a leader in this movement where we’re not going to get involved in ESG, in social issues, in political issues moving forward.”
The company has said its next set of quarterly financial results, for Q2, will come out in August.
Madeline Coggins contributed to this report.
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