How can I recycle this/flickr
In an earlier post, I noted that beer consumption outside the craft sector was down significantly. It's a point worth elaborating on, because there is solid evidence that a big change is afoot in American alcohol consumption.
According to a recent article in Ad Age, sales of Bud Light are down 5.3 percent in 2010, while Miller Lite is down 7.5 percent. In fact, only four of the top 30 brands saw sales increase. These are not slight changes. For an industry that relies on slow and steady annual growth, they represent a full-blown crisis.
Ad Age, and the brewing industry, pin the blame on the economy—the target audience, 21- to 35-year-olds, are being hit hardest by unemployment, they say, so they have less to spend on booze. To back that up, Ad Age points to increased sales of the cheap stuff, like PBR and Yuengling, and it explains away the craft numbers by arguing that buyers are "saving their consumption for a special occasion by splurging on craft-style beers."
Maybe. But there's a larger story here. Follow any dude in oversized glasses into a bar, and you'll see why PBR and Yuengling are doing alright—they've spent serious time and money positioning themselves as the hipster drink of choice. Yes, they're cheaper than Bud Light, but by the slightest of margins. Hardly enough to explain the difference in sales.