Thirsty for a frosty brew? Circle K at Honeycutt and Porter Roads ran dry on tall boys last week — Coors, Michelob, Sol, Steel Reserve — all vanished Aug. 16. But a lone, steadfast column of Budweiser held its ground, chilling by the registers.
Bud Light brewed a national boycott in April, back when Pinal County Sheriff namechecked the brand in the wake of a controversial collab with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Anheuser-Busch cut ties with Alissa Heinerscheid, the marketing mind behind a $27 billion fumble in market share and launched a fresh NFL campaign suiting up the classic blue cans with the Arizona Cardinals logo.
But the aftermath lingers — Modelo Especial jerked away the U.S. beer crown Tuesday, toasting away investors’ final consolation prize of year-over-year dominance. Some beer aisles and bar tops in Maricopa are testament to the boycott’s durability.
“Across the board, we saw a dramatic boycott,” Rand Del Cotto, owner of the Raceway Bar and Grill on Papago Road, told InMaricopa. “It is insane because Bud Light used to be the best seller.”
Market researchers at Nielsen said Aug. 12 Modelo snagged 8.34% of the American beer market and eclipsed Bud Light’s 8.28% after Anheuser-Busch posted a $400 million loss in sales — a 10.5% decline — in the quarter ending in June.
“It happened far faster than most people expected,” said Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights.
According to data from the industry publication Beer Business Daily, Bud Light sales stumbled hardest in the Mountain West states, with Arizona and its neighbors taking a steep 29% plunge, outpacing all other U.S. regions. In contrast, New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the West Coast saw milder declines of 14% to 18%.
“I participated, but way before the actual ‘boycott’ started,” Maricopa resident Joey Collins said. “Haven’t bought their products in years.”
Maricopa police arrested a man stealing extra cases of Bud Light from a Circle K store on North John Wayne Parkway Aug. 2, leading some to joke it’s not worth paying for.
Anheuser-Busch and its Chandler-based distributor that services Maricopa couldn’t be reached for comment. But a worker unpacking beer cases at that same Circle K Wednesday said he noticed delivery pallets ticking up.
There’s other evidence things are stabilizing, according to local restauranteurs.
When the boycott started in April, Native Grill & Wings on North John Wayne Parkway saw a 20% drop in Bud Light sales.
“But over the last three months, everything here has been back to normal,” restaurant owner Mike Wheeler said. “Bud Light bottles are still down about 10%, but that’s not bad. Keg beer has been running the same as last year.”
With its new “Easy to Sunday” slogan — trumpeted as being among “the brand’s biggest NFL campaigns ever” — perhaps the embattled brewer is mending ties with its blue-collar consumers at long last.
“They want to enjoy their beer without a debate,” CEO Michael Doukeris said in an investor call earlier this month. “They want Bud Light to focus on beer.”
For many who participated in the boycott, there’s a stern warning not to let history repeat itself. Just ask local resident Yvette Barcellos.
“We know from what happened with Bud Light the power we have,” she commented.
Have you participated in the Bud Light boycott? Answer our poll below:
Poll closed at 9 a.m., Sept 15.