The Undisputed Champions: A Critique on Modern Light Beer
Beer can punch your pallet harder than Muhammad Ali or dance delicately down your throat like a ballerina. Yet, over 85% of the American beer market consists of relatively identical products. America’s preference for generic bland-tasting beer was established not from skilled business practices or resourceful marketing; instead, it was the result of social trends and historical events, such as Prohibition and the Temperance Movement. Within the last several decades, the U.S. beer market has become concerned with advertisements that promote similar products, rather than research and development for new ones. The average American beer consumer is unaware of many beer styles and varieties, because, in large part of, various anti-alcohol trends throughout U.S. history, which have significantly limited beer consumer access, comfort and familiarity.
Historically, anti-alcohol trends in the United States have limited consumer preference down to one specific group of beer, light lagers. In the U.S., light lagers have the strongest appeal, legacy, and economic power in the American market as well as with consumers around the world. Most American’s remember their first beer, and chances are it was a light beer—whether when watching the super bowl with family or just meeting new people at college. In many ways, light beer is analogous to being an old friend in the U.S, which begs the question how has light beer become this prominent today in American society? Light beer is almost the exclusive consumer choice because America's long history of anti-alcohol trends has ingrained a fear of beer, which discourages a full appreciation for its unique qualities.
In contrast, some critics argue that light beer is too familiar—too much the same—that it will eventually lose its appeal to kinds of beer with more flavor, taste, and variety. Most critics tend to point to the fact that craft beers have had resurgence in the market, bringing more unique beers to more consumers, especially in urban areas (Burns). In response to commercial gimmicks by craft beer manufacturers, which have tried to brand light beers as tasteless, plain, and boring, some consumers are seeking better beers for their social drinking. Craft beers, in some ways, are strong rivals to light beers, which are most Americans’ default choice, because they offer something not familiar to consumers. Craft beer is like the new neighbor on the block, the one with all of the latest and interesting gadgets everyone wants to try. The strengths of light beer can easily be portrayed as old, which can appeal to some consumers, especially younger audiences.
Although craft beer has made a substantial growth in the last decade, craft beer in general has yet to put a dent in the minds of average American citizens. Anheuser In-Bev holds 48% of the U.S. market share (WSJ Dec. 2008: C3). In other words, a single company, controls almost...