Anheuser-Busch was ordered by a federal judge to stop using Bud Light packaging that suggests beer made by rival MillerCoors has corn syrup as a key ingredient. Read more…
- Bud Light six-packs, 12-packs and 24-packs have shown “No Corn Syrup” in bold letters on their packaging since Anheuser-Busch started an ad campaign to contrast its ingredients with those of rival beers. It makes Bud Light with barley, hops, rice and water. MillerCoors uses corn syrup in the fermentation process that converts sugars into alcohol while brewing Miller Lite and Coors Lite, but corn syrup isn’t in the final product.
- The judge’s ruling against Anheuser-Busch is interesting in the context of corporate rights to free speech, including the information that appears on product packaging. The tobacco industry in 2012 successfully argued that the Food and Drug Administration had violated its First Amendment rights with a requirement to put graphic health warnings on packaging, an issue that resurfaced last month as the federal agency proposed new warnings for cigarette packs. In its appeal of this week’s court ruling, Anheuser-Busch may consider arguing for its right to print product information that’s meaningful to consumers on its packaging.
- However, the First Amendment doesn’t give companies the right to make false or misleading claims, which is a central argument in MillerCoors’ complaint against Anheuser-Busch. This week’s court order against Anheuser-Busch cites the Lanham Act, which sets standards for false and misleading advertising. The judge also cited rulings in lawsuits between Pizza Hut and Papa John’s, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV, and LG Electronics and Whirlpool, among others. Unless MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch settle out of court, future rulings likely will establish more precedent for what marketers can say in their advertising and packaging.
- Anheuser-Busch has argued that the “no corn syrup” labeling is a statement of fact. While it may be factual, it omits more complete information about the brewing process and whether corn syrup is actually harmful to consumers. Corn syrup, like any sugar, gets consumed by yeast in the process of making alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and distilled spirits. Anheuser-Busch even uses corn syrup to make some of its other beers, including Stella Artois Cidre and Busch Light, the Associated Press reported. Corn syrup also is a common sweetener in many packaged foods, but its calorie content makes health-conscious consumers wary.
- The top reason millennial consumers are drinking less beer is the perception that it’s fattening, a recent survey found, but social media also has made many young adults more aware of avoiding embarrassing behavior associated with alcohol. “Control” has become a watchword in the growing “sober curious” trend among health-conscious adults. The #SoberLife revolution among millennials has compelled alcohol brands to develop more non-alcoholic choices, the Washington Post reported.
- Faced with declining consumption, MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch were among the brewers that had considered forming an alliance to promote the beer industry. This year’s “Corn Syrup War” pushed MillerCoors to withdraw from the collaboration, the Chicago Tribune reported.