Light beer losing its appeal

Brewers are trying to revive the segment after seeing 3 years of sales declines.

By Kim Peterson Mar 26, 2012 2:56PM
Image: Beer (© Corbis)Light beer isn't as popular as it used to be, leaving big brewers scrambling to figure out how to appeal to changing consumer tastes.

Here's beer's problem, according to Bloomberg. Baby boomers prefer wine, while millennials like exotic cocktails. Compared with those beverages, light beer is about as exciting as a glass of milk.

Light-beer drinkers are also struggling with high unemployment, which means they are buying less. Or, in some cases, they're viewing beer as more of a treat and buying more expensive, full-flavored brews.

So the beer industry is trying to change with the times. Molson Coors Brewing has created an iced-tea beer called Coors Light Iced T. The beer will launch in Canada next month and may expand to the U.S. Anheuser Busch (BUD) poured a ton of money into its high-profile launch of Bud Light Platinum, which has 6% alcohol, compared with 4.2% for regular Bud Light.

Molson Coors and SABMiller are also revving up the advertising for Miller Lite. They're no longer advertising low carbs and low calories. That just doesn't sit well with the beer crowd anymore. Now the companies are bringing back the "It's Miller Time" line and emphasizing friends drinking together.

Beer sales have dropped for three years now, according to Bloomberg. The only light beer seeing any traction is Coors Light, which surpassed Budweiser to become the No. 2 beer in America (Bud Light is still tops).

The following video has more details about how Coors Light became No. 2.

Post continues below.
The momentum is with wine and particularly spirits, and companies like Beam (BEAM) are capitalizing on that trend with new cocktails. Within the beer industry, craft brews are hot -- and you only have to look at the share price spike for The Boston Beer Co. (SAM) to see how that's going.

Miller Lite is also remodeling its cans to have more masculine appeal. Is Miller giving up on women?

At any rate, look for a lot more soul searching and new experimentation within the beer industry. One year of sales declines is enough of a concern, but three straight years? Something needs to change, and fast.

"Light beer has become a commodity," a beer industry adviser told Bloomberg. If the companies can't revive the brands, "we've got big trouble ahead of us."
Mar 26, 2012 7:51PM

The owners of Coors, Budwieser and Guiness go to have a drink together.  The waiter comes and asks them each what they want.


"I want a Coors", the owner of Coors says, "because I own the Coors company."


"We'll," the owner of Budwiser says, "I want a Bud because I own Budwieser."


The owner of Guiness thinks about it for a second and says, "I'll have a water.  If these guys aren't drinking beer, I ain't either."


Light beer isn't real beer. 

Mar 27, 2012 3:29PM
Life is too short for shitty beer. 
Mar 26, 2012 3:41PM
Light beer is swill, whatever the brand. The amazing thing is that apparently some people are finally figuring that out, and are no longer willing to pay good money for an artificially carbonated beer-flavored drink.
Mar 27, 2012 12:37PM
Light beer is beer that is watered down, doesn't taste as good,and costs the same as regular beer.  Why do I want that? 
Mar 27, 2012 5:00AM

Changing the shape of a beer can won't help.  Changing the numbers at the gas pump might.

Mar 26, 2012 10:29PM
I also don't need a gimmicky can or bottle with a widemouth or color changing lable or a swirly opening.  Spend your development dollars on better beer and use regular bottles.
Mar 26, 2012 6:50PM
Drink Yuengling beer.  Family owned in the USA since 1829.  They will not sell out.
Mar 27, 2012 11:56AM

My husband and I drank light beer when we were dating and for the first couple years of our marriage... when we would go through a couple cases a week.  Then we had a family and drinking beer is no longer about getting sloshed, but sitting down at the end of the day and relaxing with one or two.  When you want to actually enjoy the beer and you only need a six pack or two for the week, you tend to look for something that tastes better.

The baby boomers are past their light beer drinking stage...

Mar 26, 2012 10:24PM

They ought to try beer with actual flavor. I haven't had a Big 3 beer in about 5 years.  I prefer the richer flavor of the Sam Adams, Shiner,  and other smaller breweries as well as the traditonal German brews.

I may be in the minotory but I don't drink beer to get drunk and pee.

Mar 26, 2012 6:21PM
I used to think that beer sucked. It all tasted like crap. Then my wife introduced to me Guinness and other ales, porters and stouts. Now I can say that my wife drove me to drink and it is not a bad thing. Honey! Lets go down to the pub and get sandwiches and share a pitcher or 2 of Guinness! 
Mar 26, 2012 6:54PM
I would rather get my 6 pack of 8% Belgian beer for $10.00 than pay $8.00 for that watered down 4.2% piss water. Light beer needs to be $5.50 for a 6 pack.
Mar 27, 2012 8:29AM
Microbrews are the way to go. Living in the Northwest there are some many great craft beers to choose from. I will never buy any of the big three plain beers. If you are going to have a beer why not have one that has taste. Go Microbrews.
Mar 27, 2012 8:25AM
Light beer losing its appeal

I never knew it had appeal in the first place. It's basically flavored water.


Light beer is not for this fat cat.  I like good taste with my buzz.
Mar 26, 2012 4:08PM

As a PhD in beer, all I can say is "Finally, Beer will be Beer again".

I just hope that the owners of the "big lights" don't kill too many of fine breweries by buying them and making them to make "Big Bud", "Coors Might", etc.

I hope the real brewers will grow and the Bud's will dry out.

Long live Sam Adams, Saranac, Long Trail, Brooklyn Brewery, Dog Fish, Omegang, Alagash...

And may our Belgian brothers toil in peace.

Mar 26, 2012 3:42PM

Do you think that the increase in price over the last 18 months was ant reason to stop buying Miller, Bud etc...????I' not going to pay 15.00 to 20.00 for my beer...


Mar 27, 2012 10:34AM
this article misses the boat.....craft brewing sales have increased dramatically and are cutting into the profits of the major beer companies.  people are opting to buy high quality beer, rather than flavorless light beers.  Obviously major beer companies dont get what they are up against with products like "Coors Light Iced T" and "more masculine cans"...what a joke. 
Mar 27, 2012 1:57PM

I drink beer as a substitute for soda, juice or most any other drink at the end of a day.  Therefore, light beer is great for that feeling of hydration or wetting-my-whistle, while not worrying too much about getting "buzzed".  Personally, my buying behavior only changed when AB became InBev (German?), Coors became Molson (Canadian) and Miller became SAB (South African?).  Since, I've switched to US beer manufacturers like Yuengling (if available), Shiner, or any of the local micro beers.  


The article insinuates that a majority of light beer drinkers are blue-collar ("unempoyed").  Since many blue-collared folks are highly patriotic, becoming "global" (foreign) manufacturers might be part of Bud, Coors and Miller's lost sales.  It's no surprise to me that Coors took over Bud's spot, since buying from Canada is much closer to home for some patriots who cannot find an alternative US-made light beer.

Mar 27, 2012 12:32PM

@Indy30: I agree. For me and my entourage light beer was a cheap way to get "there." Now, I enjoy beer for its flavor so I'll spring for quality..


But on another front, I'm sorta glad Light Beer sales is falling. Maybe if they spent more money on making it taste better instead of the relentless mind numbing barrage of tv commercials they'd have more sales.. In fact, I find funny that many light beer commercials say nothing about the beer but try instead some other witty gimmick...and I get it.. "marketting." Sell me an image and I'll buy the beer to capture that image." But I'm pretty sure I don't speak for myself when I say this: the college drinker (which I was) is not thinking about your commercials when buying beer. They're worried about price, and in MANY cases.. their id working. Not once did I or anyone I know say: "hey, lets get ____, they got funny commercials."

Mar 26, 2012 7:34PM
I don't drink a lot, but I want flavor when I do. When I have my beer, I want lots of flavor and one is
 enough. I would rather pay more and really enjoy a GOOD beer than drink  the flavored water
 Coors and Bud make.  I have tasted better and become spoiled.  There is no going back. 
  Quality trumps quantity.
 My very favorite is Eisbock. Good sipping beer. Strong and smooth.
 I think consumers are becoming more sophisticated about beer, and Lite beer just doesn't cut it. Thanks to small brewers who brought the good beers back.  
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