Anheuser-Busch to face Wall Street questions over Bud Light backlash

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Anheuser-Busch will report earnings Thursday, marking the first time it has faced Wall Street analysts questions since its Bud Light brand erupted in controversy.

Bud Light's sales have risen over the past month after the company sent a custom-made product to Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender woman with a large Instagram following. The video became so popular, with some supporting Mulvaney and the company, and others reacting with anti-trans reactions and calls for a Bud Light boycott. The statement A-B's speech calling for unity alienated trans-Atlantic advocates.

For the week ending April 22, sales of beer at retailers fell 21.4%, according to NIQ data given to Bump Williams ConsultingWilliams Consulting. The week before, Bud Light revenue was down 17%, even as sales of rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light increased. But don 't expect the sales freefall to be reflected in the beer maker's bottom line Thursday. Mulvaney published her post on April 1 - a day after A-B's first quarter ended. However, senior executives may make their first substantial public comments about the incident and answer questions from analysts during the earnings call.

A-B has been generally quiet since the backlash, with just a short comment posted to Twitter on April 14 by A-B CEO Brendan Whitworth that did not directly mention the controversy. Roth said he expects some kind of general reference to what s happened to the company, but not likely addressing the controversy head on when the company speaks with Wall Street analysts Thursday.

Bud Light sales have been decreasing for years, but this situation has snowballed and made its problems even more pronounced, Roth said.

Now the company has alienated some conservatives while losing an opportunity to stand by Mulvaney and show a new generation of consumers how it cares about the people younger generations admire. The future for Bud Light was already less bright before this controversy and is dimmer now. The decline in Bud Light sales has a halo effect on other brands, indicating that drinkers are shunning the entire brand. NIQ data gave to Bump Williams ConsultingWilliams Consulting also said sales of Natural Light, Busch Light and Michelob Ultra, which rose prior to March 30, were down for the week of April 22.

Williams said that he doesn t think A-B has any choice in terms of commenting on the sate of their sales and he s concerned about how long it takes for Bud Light to recover from this if at all. My fear is that this is not just a Bud Light issue, it s an entire Anheuser-Busch portfolio issue, he said.