MillerCoors wins a battle in 'corn syrup' ad war with Bud Light

MillerCoors wins a battle in ‘corn syrup’ ad war with Bud Light


Rick Romell


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Anheuser-Busch must stop declaring on its packaging that its beer contains “no corn syrup,” but may use up its existing stock of packages with the controversial language, a judge ordered Wednesday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison marks another victory for MillerCoors in its contention that rival brewer Anheuser-Busch has tried intentionally to mislead consumers into thinking they are drinking corn syrup when they down a Miller Lite or Coors Light.

The fracas began with Anheuser-Busch’s multi-million-dollar marketing campaign, launched during the 2019 Super Bowl, that suggested the MillerCoors beers, unlike Bud Light, contain corn syrup.

MillerCoors sued its competitor in March, alleging that the ads were false and part of a plot to play on the concerns of some consumers about corn syrup to frighten drinkers of Miller Lite and Coors Light into dumping their customary brews in favor of Bud Light.

MillerCoors argued that it uses corn syrup as a fermentation aid, but that it turns to alcohol in the final product. Further, the company said, the ordinary corn syrup it uses in the brewing process is different from the high-fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and regarded by some people as a health risk.

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In May, Conley issued a preliminary injunction temporarily barring Anheuser-Busch from using the words corn syrup in ads without providing more context.

On Wednesday, the judge extended the preliminary ban to Anheuser-Busch’s packaging. He ruled that after the brewer exhausts the stock of packaging it had on hand as of June 6, it must no longer use the phrase no corn syrup or icon on its packaging.

Following Conley’s latest ruling, Anheuser-Busch signaled that it would continue to press its case.

“Bud Light is brewed with no corn syrup — plain and simple,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to defending our right to inform beer drinkers of this fact at trial and on appeal. MillerCoors is resisting consumer demands for transparency in the ingredients used to brew its beers, but those demands are here to stay. We will continue leading this movement in the beer industry.”

Contact Rick Romell at (414) 224-2130 or rick.romell@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RickRomell.

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