Last summer, as sales tanked, many of the frothy beverage's obituaries were sourced to a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization that found beer was no longer the beverage of choice for most Americans, who more frequently drank wine (39%) than beer (36%).
But, in a reversal, the just-released Gallup poll this year found that beer is again the beverage Americans drink most often, beating wine by a 41% to 33% margin. (Liquor, however, climbed to 23% from 21% last year.)
"We think this is a real sign that things are starting to turn," said Bob Lachky, VP-global industry development at No. 1 brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. "This is a reflection that, in terms of real sales, people still look to beer more often."
After last year's Gallup data was released, Mr. Lachky led an effort at A-B to revive beer's image through the "Here's to Beer" ad campaign, which emphasized the social value of the beverage. TV spots directed by Spike Lee asked celebrities such as "Sopranos" star Michael Imperioli and sportscaster Joe Buck who they would like to have a beer with. The effort included an internet component as well.
A-B invited rivals Miller Brewing and Coors brewing to participate in the category push, but both declined, figuring, correctly, that A-B -- which has a nearly 49% share of the U.S. beer market -- would wind up funding the ads anyway.
No hard sales data
Mr. Lachky said he saw the latest Gallup figures as a sign the campaign is succeeding, although he acknowledged that he has yet to see any actual sales data suggesting beer is regaining share from wine and spirits.
"We are getting some indications that hard liquor's share is flattening a bit," he said. "But it is a little premature to say beer is growing share back."