‘This is why I’m drunk’…and straight talkin' US beer trends in 2012


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Bucking grim sub-premium beer trends: Pabst Blue Ribbon scores well with young adults (Picture Copyright: Jeremy Noble)
Bucking grim sub-premium beer trends: Pabst Blue Ribbon scores well with young adults (Picture Copyright: Jeremy Noble)
Journalists are loathe to credit rivals with originality, in terms of admitting you were beaten to that big lead or story, but I’m in a charitable mood, feeling a little fragile, the morning after our office Christmas party.

This is why I feel impelled to credit beer blog site This is Why I’m Drunk​ooh what a daring name! – which published a story yesterday called ‘9 Beers Americans No Longer Drink…Why it’s a Bad Thing’.

The story then cheekily side-swerves its headline, qualifying it by stating that the said list includes beers that Americans don’t want to drink as much of. Subtle difference. We haven’t gone teetotal.

‘Will Farrell just can’t save Old Milwaukee’

“Naturally, the list is a who’s who of BMC (Budweiser, Miller, Coors) options that craft beer lovers decry. It’s the usual suspects, including Michelob, Budweiser Select and Amstel Light. Try as he might, Will Ferrell just can’t save Old Milwaukee,”​ states This is Why I’m Drunk.

Anyway nod to the opposition aside, on to the list, compiled by 24/7 Wall Street based on Beer Marketer’s Insights data, which reveals that the sub-premium sector is suffering in the States.

“That’s by design. Sub-premium volume has been squeezed in recent years as AB InBev took larger price increases on sub-premium brands, attempting to narrow the gap between sub-premium and premium pricing,” ​according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.

The below premium beer category lost 3.3% in volume terms (Nielsen 8/11 data for the year to date) and lost 1.4% to 27.6% in off-premise volumes, and nine out of ten sub-premium brands suffered declines. Here they are:

AB InBev

Three brands together account for 44% of segment volumes: Natty Light fell 6%, Busch Light 0.8% and Busch 4.8%.


Occupying positions 4 and 5 were MillerCoors brand High Life (-5.5%) and Keystone Light (-6.3%). Natty Ice also lost 7.5%. The Top 6 sub-premium brands accounted for 2/3 of segment volumes but all ​of share loss – with 1.4% share loss between them in the year to date.

But there is one shining light…

And that’s Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is up 26.7% in the Nielsen stats (based on year-to-date data). “Pabst Blue Ribbon has the best below premium image, especially among young adults.

“Each of brands 8 to 10 are smaller Miller Coors brands – Icehouse, Steel Reserve and Miller Best Ice. All three were down: Steel Reserve and Best Ice down less than 1%.”

Beer Marketer’s Insights said it expected sub-premium prices to keep falling as AB InBev launches another round of above-inflation price hikes on brands, with all below premium prices up 49 cents (3.3%) in the year to date.

“Pabst is among the highest priced sub-premium brands, at just over 16$ per case, though its average prices are up just 2%.”

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