- Anheuser-Busch’s US CMO Marcel Marcondes revealed that Bud Light launched its Super Bowl campaign centered on corn syrup to address younger drinkers’ concerns regarding transparency.
- "If people start to see beer as something that is not necessarily healthy, then inevitably people will start to drink less beer," Marcondes told Business Insider.
- Gen Z and millennials are increasingly ditching beer, with Bud Light sales dropping by 5.5% in 2018.
Bud Light’s corn syrup-centric Super Bowl commercial infuriated corn farmers and confused some customers.
But, according to Anheuser-Busch InBev’s chief marketing officer in the US, the ad campaign was a necessary risk as younger drinkers increasingly ditch beer.
"We know that a lot of people believe that these beers are all the same," AB InBev’s US CMO Marcel Marcondes told Business Insider. "So if we decide to really go transparent, I think it’s fair for us to highlight like the differences that do exist among the beers. Then, consumers should make their call."
In the case of the Super Bowl campaign, that difference was the use of corn syrup. While Marcondes acknowledged that some people simply do not care about corn syrup, he says that younger drinkers are increasingly concerned with the behind-the-scenes process of how their beers — as well as other food and beverages — are made.
As millennials and Gen Z ditch beer in favor of wine and spirits, AB InBev is finally addressing these worries directly.
"We always say we should face brutal facts everyday," Marcondes said. "Things are changing faster than ever before."
Despite retaining its spot as the top-selling beer in the US, Bud Light sales dropped by 5.5% in 2018, Brewbound reported, citing IRI data. Sales of all domestic premium brands, including Bud Light, Coors Light, and Budweiser, dropped by 4.2% in 2018.
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
AB InBev hopes to combat declining sales with new products and variations on classic brands, as well as by doubling down on transparency. According to Marcondes, AB InBev has charted the rise of transparency in labeling and ingredients across other food and beverage categories, while beer has lagged behind — contributing to younger drinkers ditching brews.
"If people start to see beer as something that is not necessarily healthy, then inevitably people will start to drink less beer," Marcondes said. "But if we manage to make them see clearly beer really is predominantly made with natural ingredients, if we talk about low carbs, low calories, if we have tailor-made propositions like Michelob Ultra — we can change that game."
Still, Marcondes acknowledges that promoting a corn syrup-free Bud Light and rolling out the organic Michelob Ultra Pure Gold might not be enough to convince Gen Z to commit to beer. With the rise of more options — from wine to spiked seltzers to legal marijuana — beer is no longer the assumed drink of choice.
"I think this industry has become so complicated, so complex now that even when you as a company have a winning portfolio, it becomes really hard to win," Marcondes said. "Because there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all kind of beer brand. You must play a portfolio game."
"We are, of course, predominantly a beer company," he added. "I would say it is going to remain like this for a long time. But we need to adapt to change."
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