Anheuser-Busch InBev is hoping to offset a decline in beer sales with continued growth in premium beverages like ready-to-drink cocktails and vodka seltzer.
AB InBev’s beer sales to wholesalers declined 2.7%, while sales to retailers fell by 3.4% in the quarter ended June 30.
The bright spot continues to be premium offerings, which represent 40% of U.S. sales—twice the share of four years ago.
“The key focus now is on the U.S., where you have this dual strategy” consisting of RTD brand Cutwater and vodka seltzer Nütrl, AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris said in an earnings call with financial analysts on July 28.
Launched in the United States last fall, Nütrl is a premium brand in the distilled hard-seltzer space.
“I'm sure that for a lot of people, it's a new brand, but Nütrl is the leading vodka soda in Canada,” said Doukeris. “We are rolling it out now nationally.”
In the declining malt-beverage space, a recent consumer-preference survey by marketing technology company Zeta found that Bud Light hard seltzer had nosed ahead of category leaders Truly and White Claw.
Among approximately 1,300 U.S. adults ages 21+ surveyed from June 16-30, 18% of respondents cited Bud Light as their hard seltzer brand of choice followed by Truly (17%) and White Claw (17%).
When asked about their top reason for drinking hard seltzer, 42% said “refreshing taste,” compared to “low calorie/low sugar” (33%) and “alcohol content” (17%).
This helps to explain why Boston Beer Co. Inc. is reformulating the core flavors of Truly “for an even smoother, easy-to-drink and refreshing taste profile,” as explained last month by CEO Dave Burwick.
One bright spot for AB InBev with regard to beer is that it is replacing Molson Coors Beverage Co. as the primary beer sponsor at Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee—home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
“We wish the team success and we will continue finding unique ways to invest in this city," Molson Coors said in a statement to the Milwaukee Business Journal.