May 26, 2024

Bud Light bottles on a shelf

Photo: Erika Goldring (Getty Images)

Anheuser-Busch InBev saw a strong first quarter, as the impact of last year’s Bud Light boycott shows signs of softening.

The Belgian brewing company behind popular brands like Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois, raked in $1.5 billion in underlying profit attributable to shareholders — roughly $2 million higher than it reported a year earlier, the company reported Wednesday. Its revenues also grew 2.6%, to $14.55 billion.

Anheuser-Busch InBev stock was up about 4.5% shortly after markets opened Wednesday.

The results were largely driven by AB InBev’s “large and growing” beer category. The company estimated that the percentage of consumers buying from its portfolio of brands increased in approximately 40% of its markets, led by female consumers across key markets in Latin America and Europe.

But the world’s largest brewer is still grappling with some of the after effects of last year’s conservative-led boycotts over Bud Light’s collaboration with transgender actress and TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Sales of the popular beer brand plummeted following the partnership — and AB Inbev’s response to the controversy frustrated many LGBTQ+ advocates as the brand saw itself caught in the midst of a culture war.

In the first quarter, U.S. sales of its own beer brands declined 11.1%. Sales-to-retailers also fell by 13.7%, mainly due to the volume decline of Bud Light, the company said.

Its share of the American beer market, however, continues to grow, and sales of its spirits-based canned cocktails in the country also outperformed the industry.

The company is facing growing competition, particularly in the aftermath of the boycotts. Constellation Brands CEO Bill Newlands said in its latest earnings call that Modelo Especial became the number one beer in U.S. dollar sales — a position that was previously held by Bud Light.

Constellation saw Modelo Especial grow depletions by nearly 14% during the fourth quarter of 2023, which refers to the products sold to a consumer at the retail level. Meanwhile, its Pacifico beer brand reached 22% of depletion growth.

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