Anheuser-Busch InBev, the global beer-making giant, on Thursday reported a sharp drop in sales and profit in the United States, as it counted the cost of a conservative-led boycott of Bud Light after the company’s collaboration with a transgender influencer.
Anheuser-Busch said that its revenue in the United States fell more than 10 percent last quarter, versus the same period last year, “primarily due to the volume decline of Bud Light.” Operating profit at the U.S. unit dropped by nearly 30 percent.
Bud Light has faced a backlash from conservative commentators and celebrities after Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer, posted a promotion for the beer on Instagram in April. Anheuser-Busch later put some marketing executives on leave and announced layoffs in its corporate offices.
“People want to enjoy their beer without the debate,” Michel Doukeris, the chief executive of Anheuser-Busch, told analysts on Thursday. He said that the company would focus on promoting its beers through its partnerships with sports leagues and nonprofits that support military families and farmers.
Bud Light was dethroned by Modelo Especial as the nation’s top-selling beer in retail sales in June. Constellation Brands, which sells Modelo in the United States, reported 7.5 percent growth in beer volumes in its most recent quarter, which ended on May 31, compared with the same period last year. Overall volume at Anheuser-Busch, which also sells Beck’s, Michelob, Stella Artois and many other brands, fell by more than 1 percent in the three months through June.
Bud Light has been losing market share because of the backlash. Anheuser-Busch noted, however, that the share of sales of its brands in the United States had stabilized by the end of the quarter.
Sales of the conglomerate’s other beers, in other countries, helped bolster its results, with total revenue last quarter up just over 7 percent and a measure of profit gaining 5 percent, beating analysts’ expectations. The company, which is based in Belgium, reiterated its forecast for profit growth of up to 8 percent this year, in part because it has been raising prices. Its share price jumped more than 4 percent in early European trading before moderating to a smaller gain later in the day.
Sticking with its profit forecast “should provide relief to investors who have been waiting on the sidelines to see if the Bud Light situation would drive a reset of expectations,” analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a research report. They warned that the “full hit” of Bud Light’s troubles would appear in the company’s next quarterly report.
Retail sales of Bud Light have fallen by as much as 42 percent in some U.S. metro areas, in the four week period ending on July 22, according to Nielsen IQ data analyzed by the consulting firm Bump Williams. Customers at bars and restaurants have also ordered Bud Light less frequently, sending sales down 34 percent last quarter, according to data from Union, an ordering system used at more than 1,000 bars and restaurants in 34 states.
Bud Light has lost its top spot at these establishments, falling to fourth place, behind Miller Lite, Michelob Ultra and Coors Light, according to Union.
Molson Coors, which owns Coors Light and Miller Lite, on Tuesday reported record quarterly sales and a big jump in profit. The company’s chief executive, Gavin Hattersley, told analysts that in the second quarter last year, Bud Light sold more than Coors Light and Miller Lite combined. In the second quarter this year, he said, Coors and Miller racked up 50 percent more in sales than Bud Light.