John Phipps: What's Really Happening With The Great Beer Brewhaha

John's World- 03/16/19
Many corn farmers are upset over Bud Light's recent Super Bowl commercial, but John Phipps says there are bigger issues to tackle when it comes to beer. ( MillerCoors )

I’ve tried to ignore it, but Tyne asked if I had any thoughts on The Great Beer Brewhaha. (Did you see what I did there?) Corn farmers were offended by a Super Bowl commercial that bragged about a beer not containing corn syrup. Because I don’t watch sports and rarely drink beer, especially light beer, this whole spat didn’t really interest me. What I have been watching are some trends that might shed some light on what is really happening.

The first is beer consumption is dropping in the US, and the world.

beer consumption

Second, Gen X is more likely to drink beer than any other age group. In fact, much of the sales drop is due to the lower percentage of beer drinkers, as well as lower per capita consumption among Millennials.

Beer Consumption 2

It’s tough luck, but Gen X is sandwiched between the two largest US population cohorts in history. Gen X has a reputation as arguably one of the hardest drinking groups in modern history – remember the Kavanaugh hearing and the college partying reputations coming back to haunt them. Beer makers know that won’t change overnight either, despite possibly temporary brand substitutions. Gen X would probably be harder to sell significantly more beer to, unlike Millennials.

Beer consumption 3

The entire food industry is coping with the fact Millennials tend to be picky eaters and are more concerned about ingredients. High fructose corn syrup has been under scrutiny as a cause of obesity for years and its use has dropped accordingly. This controversy likely has more impact on Millennials than other cohorts. The decline in HFCS popularity likely bleeds over into all corn syrup products.

beer consumption 4

Connecting some dots, it looks to me like beer companies are targeting Millennials as their largest future market, even with possible loss of Gen X consumers. At the very least, I doubt this ad was a mistake, but with their outraged response, farmers made sure more people now know who puts what in which beer. Sometimes is just not about us, and we’d be better off hitting the “ignore” button.

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