I had a conversation with an employee of Anheuser-Busch and we were primarily talking about the Budweiser Clydesdales and how InBev had strongly hinted they would phase out that expense after their purchase of AB in 2008. The good news is that maybe they have decided horses actually do sell beer but the rest of what I learned is troubling.
Apparently ABInBev put a couple of single Clydesdales in China within the past couple of years and Budweiser sales increased by 27 percent. That is a good indication that horses do a great job of capturing your attention, which can lead to the sale of about anything.
My follow-up question was about the Super Bowl ad that cause so much of an uproar in farm country. This gentlemen said, “Well first of all, I am also a farmer and that ad (bragging that no high fructose corn syrup was used to make Bud Light) did not set well with most of us that work for AB either. However, we did not design that ad; the marketing folks in New York did.”
From the outset, I told Kelli that surely the ad was a marketing plan not only by Budweiser but a cooperative effort by all large beer manufacturers. If you will remember, the next day Coors Light rolled out their campaign in support of corn farmers and it hit me that this was all just too smooth. Well, here is what I somehow missed. ABInBev had purchased SABMiller (who owns Coors) in 2015, meaning that every one of the major beer names you can think of are now owned by one outfit. In fact, I have learned that ABInBev now owns 33 percent of all global beer production.
I found the following printed in The Fiscal Times July 2016 pointing out that the five largest selling beers in the United States are all foreign owned:
“In 1988, Budweiser sold 50 million barrels and was one in every four beers purchased in the U.S. market. Its sales have dropped more than 70% to just 7% market share, compared to the 12.2% craft share cited by the Brewers Association. That even falls beneath the 7.8% share that Nielsen says Mexican brands like Corona, Dos Equis and Modelo now enjoy in the United States, which, by the way, are also all owned by ABInbev.”
So there are a couple of things worth noting in this story. First, Bud Light beer sales jumped despite the uproar from the farming community because the consumers respond to catchphrases like “no high fructose corn syrup.” I struggle in thinking that with all the noise we made at the time of the ad, it really made zero difference in sales. We wanted to retaliate and get ABInbev’s attention to tell them they were stabbing the ingredient suppliers in the back while we should have used that opening to reach the beer drinkers and educate them about corn. Whether you know it or not, the two farm commodities we are the best at producing for the world have the biggest negative sigma with the general public—cows and corn.
Secondly, the folks who will complain about consolidation in the farm world yet they drink beer from a foreign-owned, beer bully that owns 33 percent of the global beer market. I know for a fact now that the entire marketing scheme with the Super Bowl ad was simply to get large brand beer back in the news cycle and we played right into their plan. The local craft beer brewing business has been kicking the foreign owned conglomerates tail in beer sales and they found a way to generate support through sales at least for a period of time.
At the end of the day, here is the real question: What beer are you drinking? If you are an Iowa corn farmer who still enjoys a Busch Light at the end of the day then you have no right to complain. The pattern continues: We get upset for some short period of time then we forget anything ever happened and go back to what we know. Folks throughout history have referred to the definition of insanity as doing the same thing time and time again and expecting different results. If you want to make a statement in support of American farmers, dump all of your “famous label” beer and head to your local brewery. They have plenty of flavor options and many of them use locally grown products in their brews so you can support the businesses that actually support local economies instead of the beer bullies that conspire against us.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at email@example.com.