Business Strategies / Beverages

Both Sides Claim Win in ‘Corn Syrup’ Beer Lawsuit

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

May 30, 2019

A federal judge has enjoined Anheuser-Busch InBev from suggesting that its biggest rival, MillerCoors, uses corn syrup as an ingredient in Miller Lite and Coors Light beer.

In a ruling that both sides interpreted as a victory, U.S. District Judge William Conley forbade Anheuser-Busch from describing its competitors as using “corn syrup” or “high-fructose corn syrup” without specifying that this is part of the brewing process, not a final ingredient.

Conley was ruling in a lawsuit that MillerCoors brought over an Anheuser-Busch ad campaign that began with commercials aired during the Super Bowl in February. The commercials, part of Anheuser-Busch’s medieval-themed “Dilly Dilly” campaign, depicted the Bud Light king delivering huge barrels labeled “corn syrup” to the castles of Miller Lite and Coors Light.

MillerCoors claimed that this and subsequent TV spots left viewers thinking that their products contain corn syrup, when actually it feeds fermenting yeast and disappears by the end of the brewing process.

Conley’s ruling allows Anheuser-Busch to keep running the original Super Bowl ads. However, he ruled that the ads that ran afterward “cross the line from simply being susceptible to misunderstanding to being misleading” with statements like Bud Light has “100% less corn syrup” than Miller Lite. He enjoined Anheuser-Busch from mentioning its rivals’ use of corn syrup unless it qualifies the claim with phrases like “brewed with,” “made with” or “uses.” He also denied Anheuser-Busch’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit entirely.

MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley express satisfaction with the ruling. Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch announced that it would begin re-running the original Super Bowl ads.