The dramatic downturn in the economy that transpired in 2008 had the most positive affect on the Popular beer category. Although Popular beers seemed to lose their popularity with consumers’ years ago, it recorded its first upturn in over twenty years in 2008 with a 0.3% gain. Brands found in this lower-priced category have benefited from cost conscious consumers trading down as the economy has put the squeeze on an industry who for years traded up to competitive higher priced offerings found in the Super Premium, Craft and Import categories. Despite the current upturn, the Popular category market share has shrunk by almost one-half over the last ten years. Popular held a 14.1% share in 1998, a number that declined to 7.9% last year.
Busch, the category leader with a 37.8% share of the segment, posted its first positive year since 1998 with a 4.4% gain. While it’s volume increased last year, AB InBev cut its advertising expenditures 26.5%. In comparison, parent Anheuser Busch at one time backed the brand with intensive advertising outlays that peaked in 2003. At that time the effort didn’t transcend itself to the bottom line and ad outlays for the brand have been cut for each of the last five years.
Despite Busch’s spot as the category leader, it’s MillerCoors that boasts the largest share of the popular segment. Its five brands, Miller High Life, Milwaukee’s Best, Red Dog, Hamm’s and Keystone’s, account for 40.7% of the popular beer market. All of MillerCoors popular priced brands lost cases last year with the exception of the second best-selling brand in the category, Miller High Life. The brand, once a premium offering, gained 0.9% in case sales. This is the first positive result for the brand since 2002. Ad outlays continue to remain at high levels for Miller High Life. In 2008, MillerCoors spent $20.6 advertising High Life, a 7.6% decrease versus 2007. Of note is that MillerCoors dedicated over 85% of that ad spending to television with their “Delivery Guy” and 1-Second Ad” commercials. Of the remaining MillerCoors brands represented in the category Keystone was the only other brand with measurable ad expenditures albeit a slight $270,100.