AB InBev's US Chief Marketing Officer, Benoit Garbe, is stepping down following a significant decline in Bud Light sales. The move comes as the beer giant grapples with challenges tied to a controversial partnership and a dip in revenue.
The world’s leading brewer announced on Wednesday that Garbe will be resigning by the year-end to pursue a new chapter in his career. Garbe, who has held the CMO position for just over two years (inside.beer, 10.11.2020), has been a central figure in the marketing strategies surrounding Bud Light, a brand that has recently faced a sharp decline in sales. Before working for AB InBev, the Harvard graduate and brand expert worked several years as a brand manager for luxury goods company LVMH and spirits company Diageo followed by several roles in consultancy in New York and Shanghai.
AB InBev reported a concerning 13.5% decline in third-quarter US revenue per hectoliter. Bud Light, in particular, suffered as customers abandoned the brand following a controversial partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney and a poorly managed response to the resulting controversy (inside.beer, 14.4.2023).
To address these challenges, AB InBev is initiating an executive reshuffling, with US Chief Commercial Officer Kyle Norrington set to take over marketing responsibilities. The company aims to streamline its organizational structure to empower top commercial leaders in driving business and legacy initiatives forward, as stated by AB CEO Brendan Whitworth.
The decline in Bud Light sales had a notable impact on the company's financials, with sales to US retailers dropping nearly 17%. In response, AB InBev implemented measures such as forging deals with wholesalers, including financial incentives to distributors, and boosting marketing spend on the Bud Light brand. However, these efforts contributed to a significant 29% decline in adjusted US earnings.
Despite losing its long-held title as the top-selling American beer to rival Modelo after the controversial Mulvaney partnership (inside.beer, 9.6.2023), AB InBev remains determined to reverse the brand's fortunes. The departure of CMO Benoit Garbe is seen as a strategic step in this direction.
During a recent analyst call discussing the company's third-quarter results, AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris revealed insights from company research. More than 40% of lapsed Bud Light customers expressed a willingness to give the brand another chance, indicating a positive direction for the brand's recovery. Doukeris expressed confidence in the ongoing improvements in Bud Light's performance, stating, "This gives us some certainty that we are moving in the right direction. We have a good grip on what we need to do and how we are proceeding from here."