Not all beers are created equal.
Prior to Super Bowl LIII, I had no idea that Bud Light is brewed with rice, while Miller Lite and Coors Light use corn syrup.
This newfound knowledge came back in February, as I was nestled under a fuzzy blanket on the couch watching the Patriots take on the Rams. I gasped as a Bud Light commercial showed a medieval caravan pushing a huge barrel of corn syrup to castles for MillerCoors to make Miller Lite and Coors Light. It proclaimed that Bud Light isn’t brewed with corn syrup.
I turned to my husband and said, “Oh, boy, that’s opening a can of worms.”
By AB InBev, owner of Bud Light, saying it doesn’t use corn syrup in that product, it implies corn syrup is in some way a negative ingredient in beer. It plays on the public disdain for its ugly stepsister, high fructose corn syrup — particularly in beverages.
I knew there would be pushback. Sure enough, the feud between the two largest brewers in the world escalated into MillerCoors suing AB InBev in federal court, calling for a halt to the ads.
MillerCoors said in the lawsuit that St. Louis-based AB InBev has spent as much as $30 million on a “false and misleading” campaign, including $13 million to launch the commercials during the Super Bowl.
It seems evident that AB InBev is trying to capitalize on fearmongering for profit while cowering behind the noble cause of transparency.
Corn syrup claims mislead consumers
Truth is, corn syrup is a common fermentation aid not even present in the final product.
Late in May U.S. District Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin issued a preliminary injunction barring AB InBev from using marketing that suggests MillerCoors uses corn syrup in the final production of its light beers.
Judge Conley ordered AB InBev to temporarily stop using advertisements that mention corn syrup without references to “brewed with,” “made with” or “uses” — or that describe corn syrup as an ingredient in the finished products.
The ruling affects two Bud Light commercials and billboards that describe Bud Light as containing “100% less corn syrup” than Miller Lite and Coors Light.
However, the judge is allowing AB InBev to continue to run its controversial Super Bowl ads.
Whether it be rice or corn syrup, during the brewing process, yeast eats sugars and turns it into alcohol. Beer is generally thought to be water, yeast, hops and malted barley, but American light lager brewers often substitute a fermentable sugar for some of the malted barley, leaving a lighter beer texture.
This infighting in the light beer industry comes at a time when a good chunk of its market share has been gouged by the craft industry.
In 2007, MillerCoors and AB InBev owned nearly 80% of the U.S. beer market. By 2017, their combined marked share had fallen to about 66%.
In 2017, total U.S. beer consumption fell by 1.2%, while craft beer consumption rose by 5%, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group for independent brewers.
Both strategically and ironically, AB InBev uses corn syrup in some of its other beers, including Stella Artois Cidre and Busch Light.
Although some viewed the commercials as hilarious, they brought ire from corn growers.
The National Corn Growers Association tweeted, “@BudLight, America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you. Our office is right down the road! We would love to discuss with you the many benefits of corn! Thanks, @MillerLite and @CoorsLight for supporting our industry.”
AB InBev should have stuck to puppies and Clydesdales. The whole feud has left a bad aftertaste.