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Coors Light surpasses Budweiser as No. 2 U.S. beer

January 10, 2012|By Emily Bryson York, reporting from Chicago

Coors Light surpassed Budweiser in 2011 to become the country's No. 2-selling beer, according to the trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights.

The milestone, which has been widely anticipated for more than a year, is the result of years of declines by Budweiser, the only full-calorie beer in the top five U.S. beers, according to data from SymphonyIRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Bud Light is the top-selling beer by a sizable margin. Miller Lite is fourth, with Natural Light rounding out the top five, according to SymphonyIRI data for the 52 weeks-ended October 21.

Coors Light, handled by Chicago-based Miller Coors, has been posting slow but steady growth.

"Dethroning the King is a great accomplishment so early in the history of MillerCoors," a MillerCoors spokesman wrote in an email.

"We will be appropriately celebrating this achievement with our employees and distributors who have worked so hard to deliver an impressive 7 consecutive years of growth on Coors Light and then getting back to work to deliver an 8th consecutive year of growth."

An Anheuser-Busch spokesman said the company's 2011 sales numbers won't be available until its earnings report in early March.

"We're committed to -- and on track with -- our strategy to stabilize Budweiser," he said.

According to Beer Marketer's Insights, Coors Light sales grew 0.8 percent, to 18.3 million barrels in 2011, while Budweiser sales declined 4.6 percent to 17.7 million barrels. The data includes Puerto Rico and exports.

The trade publication added that this is the first time since 1993 that Anheuser-Busch has not had both of the top two selling beers.

It's still a pretty close race. Beer Marketer's Insights noted that SymphonyIRI data, which excludes Walmart, club stores and liquor stores, still shows Budweiser with a lead over Coors Light.

This news was first reported in the trade publication Advertising Age.

eyork@tribune.com

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