Beer sales at retail outlets tracked by market research firm IRI are up 3.5 percent to nearly $19.5 billion year-to-date through July 14, 2019. Leading the way are flavored malt beverages (FMBs), sales of which grew more than 27 percent to $1.9 billion, Brewbound reports. The surge is led by Mark Anthony Brands, producer of White Claw.

White Claw reportedly dominated booze sales over the Fourth of July holiday. In the last four weeks, sales of White Claw’s variety pack and black cherry flavors have grown more than 200 percent.

As spiked seltzer grows, the country’s top beers are in decline. Bud Light dollar sales are down 5.4 percent (more than $155 million), Budweiser 4.5 percent ($45 million), and Coors Light 2.3 percent (more than $27 million). Heineken USA, Pabst Brewing, and D.G. Yuengling & Son also saw losses.

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On the bright side, craft beer dollar sales are up 2.9 percent through mid-July. However, the top five IRI-defined craft brands — MillerCoors’ Blue Moon Belgian White, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Leinenkugel’s Shandy, Gambrinus’ Shiner Bock, and Lagunitas IPA — are all in decline.

What does it mean when American consumers are buying more White Claw than beer? Certainly, the trend could be seasonal, as consumers reach for light, airy, barely-there buzz deliverers. Will White Claw Black Cherry devotees turn back to Bud Light at summer’s end? I doubt it.

What this tells us is something we already know: Consumers don’t want their beer to be complicated all the time. On many occasions, drinkers just want an easy buzz. Instead of brushing off hard seltzer, a cultural phenomenon, because it’s “not beer” (I agree; it isn’t beer), brewers should take note: Clearly, there is a market for easy-drinking, uncomplicated thirst-quenchers, and right now, they’re in the form of black-cherry-flavored bubbly booze water.

Breweries like Boston Beer, Canarchy’s Oskar Blues and Squatters, and Ninkasi have taken the cue and released Truly, Wild Basin and Grandeur Peak, and Pacific Sparkling, respectively. It might be time for craft brewers to look beyond low-cal lagers and ales into the clear, fizzy future.

AB InBev in Massive Debt, Shares Are Soaring

CNN Business reports that shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev “soared” nearly 6 percent last Thursday, and its stock has “surged” more than 55 percent this year. This was due to “solid” sales and earnings reports.

Meanwhile, according to IRI, sales of Bud Light and Budweiser are down year-to-date, and the company owes its lenders more than $100 billion.

What’s driving this simultaneous dip in sales and spike in stock value is recent international deals. On July 19, 2019, AB InBev announced the sale of its Australian business unit, Carlon & United Breweries, to Japan’s Asahi for more than $11 billion. The announcement came days after AB InBev pulled out of an initial proposal to IPO its Asian business in Hong Kong, which would have been the biggest IPO offering of the year.

Meanwhile, AB InBev is increasing macro lager sales in South Africa, where it’s pushing that country’s most popular beer brand, Castle, along with other brands acquired with the 2016 purchase of SABMiller. Its promotional efforts during the men’s FIFA World Cup last year also helped boost sales in Russia and around the world.

According to Brewbound, AB InBev’s global revenue is up 6.2 percent for the second quarter of 2019, with Q2 revenues exceeding $13.9 billion, and reaching a gross profit of $8.7 billion.

In other words, Bud Light sales may be waning here in the U.S., but in the rest of the world, its fizzy tide is rising.

New ‘Chill’ Coors Light Ads Are Well-Intentioned but Not Perfect

MillerCoors released three new Coors Light ads this week, each focusing on real-life moments when a person needs to chill with a beer in hand. In “Bra,” a young woman, presumably coming home from work, kicks off her shoes and ditches her bra as she settles in for some couch time. Thanks to Coors Light, her breasts are set free. In the Spanish-titled “Sábado Por La Mañana,” two pals prep for a Saturday morning soccer match on TV, complete with closed curtains, robes, and egg sandwiches. A third, “Shower,” shows a man enjoying a shower beer.

The ads are simple, funny, and smart. I actually like them! But in my opinion, each reaches for relatable moments and slightly misses. “Sábado Por La Mañana” is targeted to a Spanish-speaking audience, but features the song “I Get Up Early in the Morning” by American honky-tonk crooner Roger Miller. Cute, but perhaps a missed opportunity? (Like for, say, this song. “Shower” is awkward for aesthetic and apparently legal reasons. (“Do not attempt” reads at the bottom of the screen throughout.)

Then, there’s “Bra.” I wholeheartedly relate to this working woman cracking a beer after a long day. I can guarantee I have friends who will appreciate this ad and not think twice about it. But here’s the issue: Like this woman, we don’t need the bra. The ad’s other details, like her kicking off her flats, stretching her stiff neck, plopping on the couch, and, of course, cracking a cold beer — communicate the message just fine. Making the bra central to the Coors-Light-loving woman once again sexualizes her, and in a way that’s unnecessary to the plot line. (Also, who takes off their bra and throws it on the tzatchki shelf? There was plenty of room on the couch, not to mention the floor.)

These new ads are a step in the right direction. I would love to see a Spanish ad that actually has people speaking Spanish in it; women drinking beer without us focusing on their boobs; and maybe a shower beer sequence that isn’t so weird.