After more than two decades as America’s best-selling beer, Bud Light has slipped into second place. Modelo Especial, a Mexican lager, overtook Bud Light in U.S. retail dollar sales in the month ending June 3, according to Nielsen data analyzed by Bump Williams Consulting. Modelo controlled 8.4% of U.S. grocery, convenience and liquor store sales; Bud Light fell to 7.3%.
It’s a milestone in the months-long sales decline Bud Light has experienced since early April, when critics vowed to boycott the brand after it sent a commemorative can to Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer. Bud Light has also faced backlash from Mulvaney’s fans, who think the brand didn’t do enough to support her.
Dave William, Bump Williams’ vice president of analytics and insights, said Bud Light has been the top-selling U.S. beer since 2001, and it could still retain that crown this year. He noted that Bud Light’s year-to-date market share of 9% is still outpacing Modelo’s, at 8%.
But Modelo appears to have the advantage, with its sales increasing by double-digit percentages every week. The launch of a new light beer, Modelo Oro, in May is also boosting awareness of the brand.
Bud Light’s U.S. sales slumped 24% the week ending June 3, while Modelo Especial sales were up 12%, according to Dave Williams.
Scott Scanlon, an executive vice president at the consulting firm Circana who follows the alcohol market, said Mexican imports like Modelo and Corona have been the biggest bright spots in the otherwise stagnant U.S. beer market for years.
When Modelo first went on sale in the U.S. in the 1990s, it was primarily marketed to Hispanic drinkers, Scanlon said. But it has long since broadened its consumer base and is especially popular among younger drinkers, who like its fuller flavor.
Scanlon said Modelo is already the top seller in markets like Los Angeles and Chicago, but it could still see a lot of growth ahead on the East Coast.
“Modelo was going to become the No. 1 beer brand. It was destiny because the growth numbers we are seeing and have been seeing are astonishing,” Scanlon said. “The only question was time.”
Scanlon said the pandemic accelerated Modelo’s U.S. sales, since it sees more of its sales from retail stores than from bars and restaurants. And Bud Light’s missteps further accelerated its rise.
Grupo Modelo — the Mexican brewer — is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the same parent company of Bud Light. Constellation Brands, a Victor, New York-based company, has been licensed to sell Modelo in the U.S. since 2013 as part of an agreement with antitrust regulators after InBev bought Grupo Modelo.
Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday with Anheuser-Busch and Constellation Brands.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition