The ‘King of Beers’ Losing its Rank

Apparently, the Budweiser Clydesdales hauled lighter loads in 2011. Coors Light surpassed Budweiser in 2011 to become the country’s No. 2-selling beer, according to the trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insights.

In total, Molson Coors (NYSE:TAP) shipped 18.2 million barrels of Coors Light, while Budweiser ended 2011 at 17.7 million. This marked the first time in nearly 20 years that Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) did not control the top 2 best-selling beer brands.

This change in rankings did not happen overnight. Coors Light has been gaining on the “King of Beers” for years, and analysts began predicting its rise to No. 2 last year. Indeed, MillerCoors — a joint venture between Molson Coors and SABMiller — was so confident that Chief Marketing Officer Andy England brashly told distributors early last year that “Budweiser is going down, baby.”

Despite these developments, Bud Light is the top-selling beer, and by a sizable margin. Miller Lite is fourth, with Natural Light rounding out the top five, according to SymphonyIRI data for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 21.

An Anheuser-Busch spokesman said the company’s 2011 sales numbers won’t be available until its earnings report in early March.

“We’re committed to — and on track with — our strategy to stabilize Budweiser,” he said.

These sales rankings remain in a state of flux and Budweiser has regained some sales momentum as of late. With the Super Bowl game only weeks away — the industry’s eighth-best beer sales holiday/event of the year — the event takes on even greater significance and will help determine if the Budweiser Clydesdales will be hauling heavier loads in 2012.

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