Jun 14, 2023 - Economy

Bud Light dethroned by Modelo as top beer seller in U.S.

A glass of Bud Light sits on a bar in New York City in 2018. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The punches against Bud Light keep on brewing.

Driving the news: Modelo Especial sales surpassed Bud Light this May, knocking the beer brand from the top spot it has held for over two decades, according to Nielsen data analyzed by Bump Williams Consulting.

  • The Mexican brand received 8.4% of sales in the four weeks ending June 3, while the American-made one received 7.3%.
  • An Anheuser-Busch spokesperson told Axios in a statement that "for the year, Bud Light remains the #1 brand in the US nationally in volume and dollar sales."

Yes, but: Bud Light still retains its #1 ranking on a running year-to-date basis (9% vs. 8%).

  • So, while Modelo has gained traction over recent weeks, "it has a long way to go before fully overtaking Bud Light for the #1 beer brand in the U.S.," the consulting firm said.

Between the lines: "If trends were to continue as is for the remainder of the year, Modelo Especial could surpass Bud Light to claim the #1 rank in Off-Premise Beer $ sales by year-end," according to Dave Williams, vice president of analytics and insights at Bump Williams consulting.

  • Off-premise beer sales include any retail outlet where you would purchase beer to consume off those premises, like grocery stores.
  • But, Williams added, there's still a long way to go in that regard.

The big picture: Sales have been falling since April when conservative backlash spread against Bud Light and parent company Anheuser-Busch after the brewer partnered with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender activist and popular TikToker.

Catch up quick: In April, Bud Light sent Mulvaney an influencer package, which she shared in an Instagram video.

  • That set anti-trans pockets of social media on fire and left Republicans scrambling to protect a big donor from attacks by the right.
  • Anheuser-Busch and its employees overwhelmingly support Republicans through donations, giving $1.78 million to Republican candidates and committees in 2022, compared to $490,000 to Democratic ones, per data from Open Secrets, a nonpartisan research group.

What they're saying: Modelo has had "consistent and accelerated growth," more than doubling its volume since 2017, according to Maggie Bowman, vice president of communications for Constellation Brands, which sells the brand in the U.S.

  • "Recent sales data is consistent with its industry-leading growth position in the United States, as Modelo Especial has been the #1 driver of growth in the category with more than 1.5x more dollar sales growth than the second-fastest growing brand in 2022," Bowman said.
  • "We continue to see runway for growth as we introduce Modelo to new consumers through increased distribution and presence at retail, in line with the brand’s momentum in the marketplace," she added.

Go deeper:

Go deeper