Our 2021 Beer Growth Brands Supplier of the Year is Anheuser-Busch.
This global company won the honor for its bevy of brands named by our retail readers as leading business catalysts within the beer category in the past year.
For a deeper dive into how Anheuser-Busch continues to excel — particularly in a time period afflicted by a pandemic — we recently spoke with CMO Marcel Marcondes.
Beverage Dynamics: Why did Anheuser-Busch do so well in the past year?
Marcel Marcondes: There’s no doubt this past year has tested us all in many ways. By supporting our people partners, and communities, and by staying flexible to quickly adjust to the changing environment, we were able to deliver strong results in 2020 and H1 2021. And when it comes to our marketing efforts, we are always playing a game of relevance, treating consumers like humans instead of like ‘targets’.
We put people at the center of everything we do. We used creativity and innovation to be part of the conversation with our consumers, and to deliver products that they really want, as opposed to trying to convince them to adjust to what we make. And we are all about taking actions that add value to people’s lives, instead of just putting out brand messages.
BD: What products drove sales?
MM: In 2020, we delivered 24% of the beer industry top line growth and were the number one brewer in contribution to industry growth according to IRI. And, our seltzer portfolio grew 313%, outpacing the seltzer industry by 2x. In fact, Bud Light Seltzer was recognized by IRI as its number-one New Product Pacesetter in the entire food and beverage category for 2020, the first time that an alcohol brand earned the top spot. On top of that, Michelob ULTRA was once again the second-highest selling beer by volume in the U.S. after Bud Light. And through Q2 2021, A-B continues to be the number-one innovation brewer by volume for the fourth year in a row, and has seven of the top 15 innovations so far this year.
Also, through Q2 2021, A-B holds the number one YTD Beer Innovation with the Michelob ULTRA Organic Variety Pack (Pure Gold & Infusions). Lastly, A-B is growing 2.7x the growth of the total seltzer segment through Q2.”
BD: What marketing drove consumer interest?
MM: Throughout 2020, we ensured that our brands took action to add value and bring joy. Michelob Ultra launched NBA Courtside and brought fans inside the NBA’s bubble virtually. Bud Light created e-gaming tournaments on Twitch, becoming the platform’s number one brand channel. Natural Light hosted a virtual commencement ceremony. Stella Artois debuted live-streamed cooking demonstrations. Busch even brought us Dog Brew, the first-ever ‘beer’ for dogs.
Plus, we never stopped innovating, debuting new products like CACTI Agave Spike Seltzer in partnership with Travis Scott, and Bud Light’s Ugly Sweater Pack, which created a whole new seltzer season. Always with a focus on listening to our consumers, and bringing them products and campaigns we knew they would love.
BD: What’s next in the year ahead?
MM: This past year we learned to be flexible, agile, how to build culture and drive results in a fluid working environment, and how to get even closer to consumers. I really believe that if we take this opportunity to learn from the past year, we will come back stronger as marketers.
At Anheuser-Busch, we want to lead the industry and dream big to create a world with more cheers. We’ve been through a lot this year, so the biggest opportunity in the year ahead is to make everything count. Because we don’t want to just get back to ‘normal.’ We want to get better.
BD: Any noteworthy new products or marketing?
MM: This year alone we have launched Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, CACTI Agave Spiked Seltzer, Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer, Bud Light Seltzer Retro Summer Variety Pack, Cutwater Spirits Frozen Margarita Pops and Natural Light Flavored Vodka.
When you are obsessed with consumer centricity like we are, you are relentlessly focused on developing new products that meet consumers’ evolving needs, behaviors and occasions. Innovation is at the core of everything we do at A-B, and our marketing strategy is rooted in a deep understanding of the trends fueling shifts in consumer tastes and demands. So you can count on us to continue to lead the industry in innovation, and continue to raise the bar when it comes to new products and campaigns in 2021 and beyond.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent pieces, 9 Alcohol Trends in 2021-22 and When Will the Alcohol Packaging Shortage End?