Credit: 2013 Anheuser-Busch Caption: The New Budweiser Bowtie Can
When Budweiser sales slip, it's clearly not the beer's fault: It's the cans.

Parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) has watched Budweiser's marketplace slide for a good, long while now. In 2011, MolsonCoors' (TAP) flagship product Coors Light replaced Bud as the No. 2 beer in the country, breaking the grip A-B held on the Top 2 since 1993.

While Coors Light sales grew 9% in the five years prior, Bud sales tanked 29%. It has lost more than 60% of its sales since its 50 million-barrel peak in 1988, when it accounted for more than 25% of all beer sold in the U.S. For some perspective, Budweiser once held market share close to that now held by both Miller and Coors brands combined (27%).

To combat this, A-B has commissioned its canning facility in Newburgh, N.Y., to make Budweiser cans shaped like bowties to claw back some of its lost sales. The cans are crimped in the middle, sold in eight-packs and hold 11.3 ounces of beer compared to the 12 found in regular cans. Always looking on the bright side, A-B notes that the missing 0.7 ounces knocks 8.5 calories off the content.

Budweiser could use a bit more of that one-sided optimism. Until Beer Marketer's Insights reported an estimated 0.6% uptick in Anheuser-Busch InBev sales for 2012, the big brewer had seen sales drop each year since 2008.

It has thrown just about everything at the wall trying to stop the bleeding. It has introduced "premium" brands like Budweiser Select, Budweiser American Ale, Bud Light Platinum, Budweiser Black Crown and Bud Light Lime margarita flavors. It purchased Chicago-based small brewer Goose Island from the Craft Brew Alliance (BREW) last year. It's hosting its "Made In America" music festival in Philadelphia this August with Beyonce and Nine Inch Nails, and it has been sponsoring pop culture site A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover performances in an attempt to get younger audiences to drink its declining brand.

Recently, it ran afoul of the Justice Department in a bid to take over Mexico-based Corona maker Modelo and was forced to redo the deal and give up U.S. distribution of Modelo products. The deal comes as imports and small American craft brewers take an increasing share of big brewers' market share and profits.

MolsonCoors' Miller brands have faced similar issues. According to AdAge, Vince Vaughn, "Hangover III" co-star Ken Jeong, former mixed martial arts star Chuck Lidell and drummer Questlove from The Roots are all slated to appear in a new round of Miller Lite ads. It's a step away from the Miller Lite "man up" campaign and a nod to the brand's "Miller Lite All-Stars" glory days of the mid-'70s and '80s.

Miller Lite's parent company also hopes a new bottle available only in bars and restaurants starting in May will help stop the slide.

As Boston Beer Co. (SAM) joins other craft brewers like Oskar Blues, 21st Amendment, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium by putting Samuel Adams in cans this summer, those breweries and their growing consumer base will only add to the pressures that have pushed A-B to squeeze its cans in the middle.

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