Boycott Bumps Bud Light Off Throne as Top-Selling U.S. Beer Brand in May

Monthly data shows Modelo Especial at No. 1, though Bud Light holds lead year to date
Pride SF Bud Light beer advertisement with rainbow bottle - San Francisco, California, USA - 2023
Photograph: Shutterstock

Modelo Especial has eclipsed Bud Light as the No. 1 selling beer in America, according to May sales numbers.

The descent of Bud Light, which had held the No. 1 spot for more than two decades, according to CNN, comes due to boycotts after an Instagram post April 1 from Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer, with a customized Bud Light can to promote a contest. Bud Light is owned by St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch.

Store sales of Modelo Especial rose 14.4% in the four weeks ending May 21 compared to the same period in 2022, according to data provided to CSP from Circana, a Chicago-based market research firm. In the same period, Bud Light fell 22.7%. 

That translates to Modelo Especial store sales of more than $319 million in the four weeks ending May 21, compared with $289 million for Bud Light. Victor, New York-based Constellation Brands is the Mexican beer’s U.S. distributor.

The four-week jump happened “quicker than we had anticipated,” Constellation CEO Bill Newlands told Newsweek. “We thought that would take a little longer. We’ve been very fortunate that, that’s gone a little quicker than we had anticipated. But what a great position to be in on the beer side.”

However, Bud Light is still the nation’s top-selling beer brand this year so far, according to NielsenIQ, Newsweek said. Data has Bud Light sales representing 9.1% of the total market in 2023 and Modelo Especial at 8%. This is a difference of several hundred million dollars.

Consultant Bump Williams told CNN that sales of Modelo Especial seem to be growing weekly as summer nears. He added that new low-carb beer Modelo Oro has had a solid start after its debut in May, boosting the brand’s sales even more.

Drinkers in recent years have been switching their beer preference to Mexican beers and spirits like tequila and mezcal, CNN reported. Several factors helped Modelo win May, Williams said, including excellent advertising, solid support from retailers, visually appealing packaging and a “springboard effect” from Cinco de Mayo going into the summer.

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