Wall Street Predicts Pot Will Hurt Beer Sales

Photo by Nico Escondido

Despite the fact that marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the United States government, analysts on Wall Street are predicting the cannabis industry could soon put a hefty dent in beer sales.

According to a report from CNBC, New York investment bank Cowen Group recently downgraded its market performance rating for Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP), a major producer of mainstream beer brands like Coors Light, Fosters and Miller High Life, because it is convinced the company, whose net sales were close to $11 billion in 2016, will suffer some loss in the coming years because more people are interested in weed.

In a letter sent to their clients on Thursday morning, Cowen analyst Vivien Azer wrote: “We believe alcohol could be under pressure for the next decade, based on our data analysis covering 80 years of alcohol and 35 years of cannabis incidence in the US. Since 1980, we have seen 3 distinct substitution cycles between alcohol and cannabis; we are entering another cycle.”

The letter went on explain how an overall increase in cannabis use has affected the past three cycles of alcohol consumption. Azer said historical data shows beer sales could soon drop by around 22 percent, the same as they did several decades ago, due to a “notable inverse correlation with cannabis use.”

“For TAP, the emerging cannabis category could prove more problematic, given the company’s exposure to mainstream beer in both the US and Canada,” she wrote. “While we are confident in TAP’s ability to generate their targeted cost savings, we are lowering our volume outlook to reflect our expectations for persistent volume headwinds for the beer industries in these two markets.”

This is not the first time Cowen has warned investors that the brewing industry could suffer because of legal weed. Earlier last year, the company released a report suggesting that craft beer sales in legal states, like Colorado and Washington, were not as competitive ever since marijuana products became legally available in retail outlets.

But this does not necessarily mean that the cannabis industry is killing the alcohol trade.

A report published earlier this year by market analysis firm Bernstein found that legal marijuana was not tearing away at the alcohol trade. In fact, the report, titled “Weekend Consumer Blast: Beer & Weed Revisited,” concluded that, “beer and weed are complements rather than substitutes.”

Nevertheless, Cowen has squashed Molson Coors target price, bringing it down from $120 to $105.

“Coming out of the recession, alcohol’s recovery has been uneven, while cannabis incidence (and legal sales) have both risen markedly,” Azer wrote. “We believe this sets up the alcoholic beverage category for another cycle of falling per capita consumption. With cannabis adoption accelerating, alcohol volumes will remain under pressure.”

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