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The king of beers no longer rules. Sales dropped by nearly a third between 2005 and 2010.
updated 9/9/2011 5:35:23 PM ET 2011-09-09T21:35:23

Some of America’s most famous beers have lost a tremendous amount of their national sales over the last five years. Mostly, they are full-calorie beers, and they have lost sales to lower-calorie products, as well as imports and craft beers. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the 23 largest selling beer products in America and found eight that have lost a staggering 30 percent or more of their sales between 2005 and 2010.

Most of the beers whose sales declined that much have one thing in common — they are “full-calorie” beers, or about 145 calories a can. Instead, beer drinkers have turned to “light beers,” which have 100 calories a can, and “ultra-lights,” which are closer to 90 calories.

Surprisingly, Budweiser, the best-selling beer in America for years has lost 30 percent of its sales over the five-year period. Given that Budweiser sold 18 million barrels last year, this is a massive loss — more than 7 million barrels less. Sales of Bud Light, on the other hand, held steady at just over 39 million barrels during the five-year period. Six products on our list have lost half their sales since 2005.

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Other than lighter-calorie beers, drinkers have also turned to imports, such as Corona, and to craft beers, which are produced, and usually also consumed, in relatively small regions, according to Eric Shepard of beer marketer’s Insights. Overall, sales of beer from 2005 to 2010 rose 1.9 million barrels to 208.4 million barrels. But sales of the top 20 brands dropped 10 million barrels to 149 million, a sign that Americans have turned to craft beers and imports.

24/7 Wall St. used two databases to do its analysis. One is kept by SymphonyIRI Group, one of the largest consumer research firms in the U.S. The other is from specialist research firm, beer marketer’s Insights, Inc.

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8. Budweiser
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -30 percent
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels sold (2010): 18 million
> Price per case: $19.84

The self-proclaimed “king of beers,” Budweiser’s lager was originally sold in 1876. The company still refers to itself as The Great American Lager, despite the fact that the brand is now technically owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Belgian company. For years, it was the most popular beer in the country, until Bud Light took its place in 2001.

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7. Milwaukee’s Best Light
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -34 percent
> Brewer: MillerCoors Brewing
> Barrels sold (2010): 1.3 million
> Price per case:

Milwaukee’s Best Light was introduced in 1986 as the light version of Milwaukee’s Best. Now owned by MillerCoors, the beer has the tagline “brewed for a crisp, full taste.” Sales of the beer peaked at 2.1 million barrels in 1998 and 1999, but have declined steadily every year because of the success of larger brand name light beers like Bud Light and Miller Lite.

6. Miller Genuine Draft
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -51 percent
> Brewer: MillerCoors Brewing
> Barrels sold (2010): 1.8 million
> Price per case:

Miller Genuine Draft, often referred to as MGD, is MillerCoors’ unpasteurized beer. It was introduced by Miller Brewing in 1985. The beer is actually made from the same recipe as Miller High Life, but is treated differently post-brewing. The beer is cold-filtered, rather than pasteurized, and is considered a draft beer. Sales of the beer peaked in 1992 at 7.1 million barrels. It now sells barely a quarter of that each year.

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5. Old Milwaukee
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -52 percent
> Brewer: MillerCoors Brewing
> Barrels sold (2010): 525,000
> Price per case:

Old Milwaukee is the flagship of the high-end products made by faltering Pabst Brewing Company — once one of the largest brewery companies in the world. In 1990, Old Milwaukee sold over 6 million barrels. This brand, along with others made by Pabst Brewing, almost certainly have been hurt by the huge marketing budgets of MillerCoors Brewing and Anheuser-Busch InBev and their ability to leverage the large sales volumes for better positions in stores.

4. Milwaukee’s Best
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -53 percent
> Brewer: MillerCoors Brewing
> Barrels sold (2010): 925,000

Milwaukee’s Best is one of Miller’s economy brands. It is part of the line named “Milwaukee” meant to capitalize on the name of America’s former brewing capital. The product sold an impressive 7 million barrels in 1990. Its competition, which includes Pabst and Keystone, have been successfully taking market share at the bottom of the market.

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3. Bud Select
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -60 percent
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels sold (2010): 925,000

Bud Select is Anheuser Busch’s primary product in the ultra low calorie beer segment. It has only 99 calories per can. The large brewery has put a large amount of money behind the marketing of the beer, which has Jay-Z as a spokesman. The product was introduced in 2005 and has steadily lost sales since then.

2. Michelob Light
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -64 percent
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels sold (2010): 525,000

Michelob Light was launched in 1978 as Anheuser Busch worked to combat the huge success of Miller Lite in the mid-1970s. The plan did not work well. Miller Lite was the No.2 selling beer from the early 1980s until 1994 with sales of 14.7 million barrels that year. Michelob Light sales reached only 2 million barrels by 1994. The beer has steadily lost sales since, and is now barely selling over a half million barrels each year.

1. Michelob
> Sales loss (2006-2010): -72 percent
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels sold (2010): 175,000

Michelob was first brewed in Adolphus Busch, the founder of Anheuser Busch in 1896. It was named for one of the small towns in the hops-growing region of Germany. When Anheuser Busch needed a super premium beer to compete with high-end imports like Heineken in the 1970s, it positioned Michelob to take that place.

Copyright © 2012 24/7 Wall St. Republished with permission.

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