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AB InBev fiercely denies ‘watered down’ Budweiser allegations in face of US class action

By Ben Bouckley+

27-Feb-2013
Last updated on 27-Feb-2013 at 13:15 GMT2013-02-27T13:15:01Z

AB InBev fiercely denies ‘watered down’ Budweiser allegations

A US class action alleges that Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) labels showing the alcohol content of brands such as Budweiser are ‘false in every instance’, with consumers deliberately overcharged for watered-down beer, claims the brewer fiercely denies.

In the suit filed against the world’s largest brewer in the US District Court, Northern District of California, plaintiffs Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert claim that AB InBev’s alcohol statements “are based on its uniform corporate policy of overstating the amount of alcohol in each of AB’s products”.

“AB’s uniform misrepresentations deceive reasonable consumers who rely on AB’s labels, and allow AB to gain an unfair competitive advantage in violation of Missouri and California law,” they add.

Products alleged to be under-strength include Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.

BeverageDaily.com approached AB InBev in Belgium for a response this morning, but was not able to obtain immediate comment.

Watered-down beer claims 'groundless' - AB InBev

However, Peter Kraemer, AB InBev VP of brewing and supply, told the Associated Press (AP) in the States that the watered-down beer claims were groundless.

"Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws. We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the best-selling in the U.S. and the world.”

The suit – led by attorneys at California-based Mills Law Firm – claims damage to millions of consumers upon the basis of AB InBev’s 47.7% beer market share in the US.

The suit seeks action to stop AB InBev from (1) continuing to misrepresent the alcohol content of its malt beverages” (2) enjoining it to fund a corrective advertising campaign (3) payment of damages.

Using advanced process control instrumentation and corporate protocols, AB knew the precise alcohol content of each unit it sold, the suit claims, and intentionally misrepresented products as containing more alcohol than they did.

Sophisticated process control technology

California native and former Budweiser fan Nina Giampaoli claims that packaging claiming 5% ABV shaped her purchasing decisions, but on learning that the claim was false, she stopped buying the beer.

AB’s process control technology (Anton Paar meters used from 2008) allowed it to measure and control the alcohol content of malt beverages to within 0.01%, the suit claims.

High gravity brewing meant key variables such as alcohol content were initially kept at levels above the desired final product, the plaintiffs add, with CO2 and water added at the last process stage.

“Because water is cheaper than alcohol,” the plaintiffs maintain, “AB adds extra water to its finished products to produce malt beverages that consistently have significantly lower alcohol content than the percentage displayed on its labels.”

“By doing so, AB is able to product a significantly higher number of units of beer from the same starting batch of ingredients. However, consumers receive watered-down beer containing less alcohol than the percentage displayed on its labels.”