Earlier this year MillerCoors filed a lawsuit against its rival for insinuating that Miller Lite and Coors Light contain corn syrup.
The main complaint from MillerCoors was that Bud Light’s 2019 Super Bowl advertisements intentionally deceived the public. The TV commercial in question depicted Bud Light returning a barrel of corn syrup to Miller Lite and Coors Light, stating that the MillerCoors brands use it while Bud Light does not.
Corn syrup is a fermentation aid used by most brewers, including AB InBev. While it differs from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the controversial beverage sweetener, many consumers do not know the difference between the two. As a fermentation aid, corn syrup does not end up in the final product.
Yesterday a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction, telling Anheuser-Busch it may not use any 'no corn syrup' language or icons on its packaging.
Super Bowl battle
After the debut of Bud Light's Super Bowl ads in February, MillerCoors hit back with its own ads, and the two traded insults for several weeks, mostly in the form of short commercials. Some ran on TV while others stayed on the companies’ respective YouTube channels and social media profiles.
In March MillerCoors sued AB InBev in federal court in Wisconsin, pointing out the difference between HFCS and corn syrup, and stating that Anheuser-Busch also uses corn syrup in its popular products like Busch, BuschLight, Natural Light, Stella Artois Cidre and Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer.
This week, federal judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin issued a preliminary injunction against Anheuser-Busch, barring them from using any ‘no corn syrup’ language or icons on Bud Light beer packaging.
Gavin Hattersley, CEO of MillerCoors, said "Today's ruling is another victory for MillerCoors, but more importantly it is another victory for the American public against deceptive advertising like Bud Light's.
“Bud Light's campaign was bad for the public, bad for the industry and against the law. With this ruling, we are holding Bud Light accountable for its actions, and we will keep holding their feet to the fire every time they intentionally mislead the American public."
This was the second injunction ruling between the two brewers. The first barred AB from using the language in any future commercials, print advertising or social media. It also ordered Anheuser-Busch to stop running the corresponding TV ads, take down billboards and change portions of its website.
Some of the short video ads posted on Bud Light’s YouTube channel that related to the corn syrup debate have since been taken down. The federal court also previously denied Anheuser-Busch’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
At the time of the first injunction ruling, the court asked for additional written arguments from MillerCoors and AB before deciding on the packaging restriction. Bud Light products already packaged before the ruling can only be sold until March 2, 2020.
In a company statement, AB InBev said "Bud Light is brewed with no corn syrup – plain and simple. 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."