MADISON, Wis. — After weeks of bickering in the media and via advertising, MillerCoors LLC is taking Anheuser-Busch Cos. to court over its corn syrup campaign. In court documents, MillerCoors calls the “false and misleading advertising campaign” an “extensive and pervasive … scheme designed to frighten consumers into switching away from Miller Lite and Coors Light to Bud Light.”
In the lawsuit, filed March 21, MillerCoors says A-B purposely focused on the corn syrup used as a fermentation aid to brew Miller Lite and Coors Light beers knowing that consumers would conflate it with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which “many consumers prefer not to ingest.”
The lawsuit refers to an ad campaign that began during Super Bowl VIII on Feb. 3. In a series of TV commercials, A-B makes it clear that the Miller and Coors products are made using corn syrup, a common practice in beer brewing, while Bud Light does not. The campaign began two weeks after A-B added an ingredient and nutrition panel to its packaging. The goal of the campaign, according to the lawsuit, is “to perpetuate the consumer confusion” between corn syrup and HFCS. It has since spilled over into rival YouTube videos (see below).
In its lawsuit, MillerCoors says the ads’ claims are disingenuous because:
- There is no corn syrup in Miller Lite or Coors Light.
- Corn syrup and HFCS are two different things.
- Miller Lite and Coors Light do not use HFCS.
- A-B also uses corn syrup as a fermentation aid in brewing several of its other beer and malt brands, such as Stella Artois, Busch and Natural Light.
It also goes so far as to point out that A-B does use HFCS in some of its products, including Rita’s Berry-a-Rita, Best Damn Peach Tea and Natty Rush Mountain Madness.
“MillerCoors seeks to set the record straight, enjoin A-B’s false and misleading advertising claims and obtain monetary and other relief for damages incurred” for false advertising, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison.
MillerCoors LLC, Chicago, is the marketing arm of Molson Coors Brewing in the United States.
Anheuser-Busch Cos., New York, is the marketing arm of AB InBev in the United States. A-B did not respond to a request for comment at press time and had not yet filed a response to the legal complaint.