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It’s ‘too early’ to assess any potential Bud Light backlash, Anheuser-Busch CEO says

<i>Jeff Chiu/AP</i><br/>Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris addressed the Bud Light controversy in the company's earnings call on May 4
Jeff Chiu/AP
Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris addressed the Bud Light controversy in the company's earnings call on May 4

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris addressed the Bud Light controversy in the company’s earnings call Thursday, saying it’s “too early to have a full view” of the impact of sponsoring an Instagram post by transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

“The Bud Light volume decline in the US over the first three weeks of April, as publicly reported, would represent around 1% of our overall global volumes for that period,” Doukeris said on the call. He focused attention on the company’s global reach, saying that Bud Light is just one beer within its portfolio and it’s not changing the company’s full-year outlook.

Doukeris acknowledged that the controversy has “impacted our people and especially our frontline workers,” including truckers, sales representatives and servers. In recent weeks, several Anheuser-Busch facilities have been threatened, including a bomb threat at a brewery in Southern California.

He also reiterated that the Mulvaney post wasn’t an ad campaign, and blasted the “misinformation” surrounding the sponsored post. Last week, A-B met with distributors to help them “dispel potential retailer misconception” about the Mulvaney ad.

A single can with Mulvaney’s face was given to her and was not for sale to the general public and not part of a broad campaign.

Bryan Roth, an analyst for Feel Goods Company and editor of the alcohol beverage newsletter, Sightlines+, told CNN that the call was a “missed opportunity to even acknowledge the LGBTQ+ community and how this has impacted them, since they’re also Bud Light customers.”

Sales of Bud Light have declined over the past month following backlash after it gave the can to Mulvaney, who has almost two million followers on Instagram, in early April. The video went viral, with some responding with anti-trans rhetoric and calls for a Bud Light boycott.

For the week ending on April 22, sales of the beer at retailers fell 21.4%, according to NIQ data given to Bump Williams Consulting. The week prior, Bud Light revenue was down 17%, even as sales of rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light increased.

Bud Light’s sliding sales weren’t reflected in its earnings report Thursday because Mulvaney published her post on April 1 — a day after A-B’s first quarter ended.

Overall, Anheuser-Busch InBev reported strong first quarter earnings, beating analysts’ expectations. Total revenue grew to $14.2 billion, a jump of 13.2% compared to the same quarter last year.

The company said it is going to increase investment in Bud Light as it continues to deal with sagging sales. “With this perspective of our global context, we believe have the experience, resources and partners to manage this,” Doukeris said.

Currently at about $65, shares are up more than 10% for the year.

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