Skip to main content

Yuengling's Success Story

AdAge has a headline that reads: D.G. Yuengling & Son Becomes America's Largest Brewer. Of course, once you get into the meat of the article you see that it's technically true because all the major beer conglomerates have now all been acquired by even bigger foreign conglomerates, not because of some ridiculous growth trend in Central Pennsylvania.

(from stevegarfield on Flickr)

Still, I was struck by this quote:
Yuengling's growth -- which was fueled by a huge launch in Ohio last year -- is remarkable considering that the overall beer industry remains in a funk. Total beer shipments fell by 1.4%, according to Beer Marketer's Insights, continuing a multi-year slump.
I don't find Yuengling's growth especially remarkable at all, and unless you're only judging the company from it's income statement and balance sheet, I think many people who enjoy anything other than light beer feel similarly.

Yuengling has a unique market position. When you go into a bar, it's often lumped into the "domestics" category, along with Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light, etc. So when a bar runs a happy hour special, like $2 domestic bottles, you essentially have your choice of Yuengling or light beer; and plenty of people feel that Yuengling is a superior quality beer.

Craft beer snobs may still be the minority of beer consumers, but there are enough of them to matter, and their numbers are growing. For all the talk about how the beer market has been shrinking in recent years, the numbers clearly show that it's at the expense of the conglomerates, not the small craft brewers.

Yuengling is a great compromise beer in this respect. People who wouldn't be caught dead holding a Coors Light might be perfectly willing to have a Yuengling if it's part of a happy hour special or it's what their friends have in the fridge.

I think the ratings over at Beer Advocate cement my case. As of today, Yuengling comes in at 79 out of 100. In school, that would be a high C - not a score worth hanging on the fridge, but not an unacceptable failure either. Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Light score 49, 51 and 56 respectively - all of which would earn a big fat F.

As long as Yuengling can continue to hang around in the "domestics" category, I think it will continue to do well. If it ever gets bumped anywhere near the "craft" category and starts getting priced as such, I think that momentum will grind to a halt.


Anonymous said…
I wouldn't be surprised if Yuengling tried to move from a compromise to high end position. I think Negra Modelo managed it. I happen to think Negra Modelo tastes better than Yuengling, but I hear there's no accounting for that.
Lew Bryson said…
People who drink craft beer exclusively are still a small fraction of the market; many do include it as part of their total beer consumption, though. But Yuengling wins on other factors, the craft compromise you propose is a minor one. People buy Yuengling because of the story and history as a family-owned business that is America's oldest brewery; they buy it because it's darker in the glass than light beer but doesn't taste a lot fuller; they buy it because it's NOT a mega-corporation beer; they buy it because it's something you can't get outside of the 14 states where it's currently sold. And yeah, some of us buy it simply because we like it.
The truly surprising thing is that Yuengling Lager, while firmly in the price/appearance category of a mainstream lager, is growing as a "full calorie" beer. That makes it almost unique. Budweiser has slipped from a high of 50 million barrels to current annual sales of 17.7 million barrels, Coors Banquet has all but disappeared, Miller High Life and MGD dwindle. Pabst is holding its own, and largely for the same reason Yuengling is doing well, I believe: a lack of manipulative marketing and ads. People don't want that. And they're buying that way.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Mixing Sports and Business

In the last two days I've devoured every article in the Washington Post about the Nationals painful and epic defeat on Friday night in the NLDS. It was a tough way to see the season end, there's no doubt about that.

(from wallyg on Flickr)
These articles make it clear that there are a lot of people emotionally invested in professional sports. I think they sometimes they forget that, ultimately, Major League Baseball is big business. Each team is a major corporation and the league itself is an organization governed by a bunch of executives. The television networks that show the games are under contract with the team owners and the games aren't usually available to those without cable.

This is why it can be so hard to be a fan in this game. It's the multi-millionaire and billionaire owners that call most of the shots. They get to decide how much they're willing to spend on players. They get to decide who to hire as the CEO of the company. They get to decide how much t…