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‘Anheuser-Busch is fearmongering:’ MillerCoors sues over Bud Light corn syrup ad

COMMERCIAL: Bud Light’s anti-corn syrup Super Bowl ad

Super Bowl commercial from Bud Light about their competitors using corn syrup in their products.
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Super Bowl commercial from Bud Light about their competitors using corn syrup in their products.

Bud Light went after other beers for using corn syrup during a Super Bowl ad last month. But now Bud Light’s competitors are fighting back — in federal court.

MillerCoors, which makes Miller Lite and Coors Light, filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin on Thursday accusing Anheuser-Busch of spending more than $13 million to air “false and misleading” Bud Light ads to the 100 million viewers who tuned in for February’s championship football game. Anheuser-Busch “plotted an extensive and pervasive advertising scheme” targeted at beer drinkers and aimed to “frighten” them into abandoning other brands, the 38-page lawsuit said.

Chicago-based MillerCoors accused Anheuser-Busch of trying to trick consumers into thinking MillerCoors products contain high fructose corn syrup. In reality, corn syrup is used to feed yeast in the fermentation process for Miller Lite and Coors Light, but “there is no corn syrup” in the beers when drinkers order them, whether in a glass, can or bottle, the lawsuit said.

“Anheuser-Busch is fearmongering over a common beer ingredient it uses in many of its own beers, as a fermentation aid that is not even present in the final product,” Marty Maloney, MillerCoors media relations manager, said in a statement emailed to McClatchy.

The lawsuit accused the Bud Light ads of purposefully relying on drinkers’ confusion about the difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. According to the complaint, Beer Business Daily wrote in February that Anheuser-Busch “did focus-group the heck out of this ad, and found that consumers generally don’t differentiate between high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, and that it is a major triggering point in choosing brands to purchase, particularly among women.”

Maloney said MillerCoors was “the first major brewer to put nutritional information and all of our ingredients online.”

“We are showing the world the truth,” Maloney said.

It doesn’t sound like Anheuser-Busch, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is backing down.

“The recent Bud Light campaign is truthful and intended to point out a key difference from Miller Lite and Coors Light,” Gemma Hart, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of communications, said in a statement emailed to McClatchy. “Those beers are brewed with corn syrup; Bud Light is not. These are facts.”

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Hart also said the “lawsuit is baseless and will not deter Bud Light from providing consumers with the transparency they demand. We stand behind the Bud Light transparency campaign and have no plans to change the advertising.”

MillerCoors’ lawsuit asked that Anheuser-Busch stop running the anti-corn syrup campaign, run “corrective” ads and pay “damages to the fullest extent allowed by law.”

There are plenty of Anheuser-Busch beers that do use corn syrup, according to MillerCoors’ lawsuit, including Busch, Natural Light and Busch Light. MillerCoors said Anheuser-Busch uses high fructose corn syrup in beverages like its Rita’s Berry-A-Rita, Best Damn Root Beer, and Natty Rush Mountain Madness.

“Thus, (Anheuser-Busch) apparently does not contend that corn syrup or even (high fructose corn syrup) is harmful to human health,” the lawsuit said. “And yet its Campaign encourages consumers to draw that incorrect conclusion.”

MillerCoors said it also plans to run its own ads during the NCAA tournament pushing back against Bud Light.

This is one example:

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