The last decade is marked with similar March upticks, with the greatest prompting hibernating revelers in 2006 to up their beer intake from 15.4 million barrels that February to 19.2 million the next month. So that's something, right? That means the plan is working, yes?
Kind of. Despite that big St. Patrick's Day bump in 2011, Beer Marketers Insights found that beer shipments actually fell 1.4% that year. Diageo (DEO), which makes Guinness and should have received the brunt of those St. Patrick's Day benefits, saw its U.S. beer shipments plummet 2.3% that year. Last March, its beer production was off 5% from 2012. Despite a surge in consumption, Diageo-Guinness sales in the U.S. still fell and estimated 0.8%. Granted, Guinness isn't the only beer Diageo's selling, but it's front-and-center on St. Patrick's Day and a big enough portion of its portfolio to warrant the hyphenate name for its beer segment.
Though it's tough to fault brewers and bar owners for trying, especially when Guinness sells more than 3 million pints in the U.S. on St. Patrick's Day after a spate of slow months, that quick St. Patrick's Day surge is giving potential customers one of the worst beer experiences of their lives. The crowds are elbow to elbow, the cups are often plastic, the beer is a foamy one-shot poor and the poor bartenders assigned to work that shift are living their worst nightmare. Bartenders often recall their St. Patrick's Days on the job as an Occupy Wall Street member might describe an encounter with police.
The same misery awaits on Cinco de Mayo, which Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) takeover target and Corona producer Grupo Modelo has basically declared its own St. Patrick's Day. Much as bars serving green beer and playing The Wild Rover every 15 minute have little to do with Ireland's patron saint bringing Christianity to that nation and teaching about the Holy Trinity with the help of three-leaf shamrocks, Mexican chain restaurants that turn their parking lots into fenced, guarded camps of suburbanites downing Dos Equis and munching on tacos have little to do with the Mexican army scoring an upset against French forces in the Battle of Puebla.It's once again about the beer, and Grupo Modelo has been playing this game and cashing in on this usurped holiday better than anyone. In the past three years, Crown Importers -- Modelo's U.S. distribution joint venture with Constellation Brands (STZ) -- has watched its U.S. sales increase 13% as the U.S. beer market overall reported loss after loss. That said, it's tallied those gains with just about as little dignity as possible. A jingle in holiday radio ads for Corona used to refer to it as "The Drinko for Cinco
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