Memorial Day Is Here: That's Bad News for Bud Light as They Try to Give Away Their Beer for Free

Memorial Day Is Here: That's Bad News for Bud Light as They Try to Give Away Their Beer for Free
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. That’s usually a day when you have people not only remembering the fallen, but many kicking back with their friends, family, and a cold one.

For Bud Light, this is a make-or-break time. This is the time when they would normally be making a lot of profit. But instead, in the wake of the Mulvaney controversy, they’re struggling to keep their heads above water. According to Beer Business Daily, sales have fallen now more than 28 percent.

Bud Light volumes — a measure of liquid sold — for the week ending May 13 fell 28.4%, following a 27.7% drop the week before, according to the trade publication Beer Business Daily, which analyzed Nielsen IQ data.

In at least one store, the publication said, a Bud Light 24-pack was priced as low as $3.49.

“This could be a promotional summer the likes [of which] we haven’t seen since after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where there was so much beer inventory backed up in the trade that it initiated the price war of all price wars, which ended with InBev being about to initiate a hostile takeover of [Anheuser-Busch] two years later after its market cap cratered,” Beer Business Daily said. [….]

Bump Williams, president and chief executive of Bump Williams Consulting, said over email that if Bud Light couldn’t turn sales around by the Memorial Day weekend — generally a holiday featuring a heavy amount of grilling and beer drinking — “then this brand and the entire [AB InBev] portfolio is in serious jeopardy of losing their consumer base forever.”

Beer Business Daily’s editor and publisher Harry Schumacher said he’d never seen anything like it.

AB InBev shares have fallen more than 10% since Mulvaney’s social media post went live. In a note to clients published Tuesday, JPMorgan analysts said that even if the decline in Bud Light sales stabilizes, “We believe there is a subset [of] American consumers who will not drink Bud Light for the foreseeable future.”

“Nobody imagined it would go on this long,” Schuhmacher said. He continued: “It seems random — it struck a nerve. I’ve never seen anything to compare it to, in all of the [consumer packaged goods] industry. It’s a real shock.”

As I previously reported, Anheuser-Busch is even offering to buy back some of the beer from the wholesalers that has gone past its expiration date.

Now they’re even offering to sell beer for free.

Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, Bud Light revealed a new promotion called the US Budweiser Family Memorial Day Rebate online for customers from eligible states. The rebate promises an amount “equivalent to the purchase price of one (1) 15-pack or larger, up to $15” of Bud Light, Budweiser, Budweiser Select or Budweiser Select 55 paid via Anheuser-Busch Digital Prepaid Mastercard. Based on recent prices for Bud Light products, however, in some cases this would be giving packs of beer away for free.

Online searches of local beer retailers find many offers under $15 for 15-packs or larger of these Budweiser products, making the products free after rebate, excluding sales tax or any state restrictions.

The rebate applies through May 31, so that they can do all they can to jack up the sales for Memorial Day.

Notice there are still tons of product in the aisles. It’s the same thing I saw this past weekend at an event in Texas where the people scrupulously avoided the Bud Light booth.

What’s going to be the next move? Paying customers to take it off their hands? But they’re finding out what it means to buy into the whirlwind, as is Target. And both companies seem intent on digging that hole deeper.

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