MillerCoors, a subsidiary of Molson Coors Brewing Co. (NYSE: TAP), didn’t find the Bud Light ads about the use of corn syrup in the brewing process as funny as many viewers did and sued Bud Light brewer Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (NYSE: BUD) Thursday, alleging the ad campaign is false and misleading.
The suit, filed in federal court in Wisconsin, said the Bud Light ads are false because they imply Miller and Coors beer drinkers are consuming corn syrup. Corn syrup is used in the fermentation process and is turned into alcohol during brewing, so no corn syrup is actually present in the final product.
“AB, which makes and sells Bud Light beer, has publicly explained that it designed, tested and launched a false and misleading advertising campaign targeting Miller Lite and Coors Light in order to deceive beer consumers into believing that there is corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup in Miller Lite and Coors Light to increase sales of Bud Light," Miller said in its complaint.
The suit alleges AB singled out MillerCoors for using what is in fact a commonly used item in the brewing process "for a deliberate and nefarious purpose."
AB, the suit said, knew full well that many consumers don't like high-fructose corn syrup and knew that "consumers do not understand the difference between ordinary corn syrup (used by numerous brewers, including AB itself) and high fructose corn syrup, the controversial sweetener commonly used in soft drinks."
MillerCoors is seeking montetary damages under federal false advertising laws and asking a judge to block the ads from airing.
AB Inbev responded with a statement that the ads are true, merely pointing out that corn syrup isn't used in the Bud Light brewing process while it is used to brew Miller Lite and Coors Light.
"These are facts," Anheuser-Busch Vice President of Communications Gemma Hart said in a statement. "MillerCoors has admitted to using corn syrup on its website, in social media, in a full-page ad thanking Bud Light following the Super Bowl, and even in the lawsuit itself.
"MillerCoors’ lawsuit is baseless and will not deter Bud Light from providing consumers with the transparency they demand," Hart's statement continued. "We stand behind the Bud Light transparency campaign and have no plans to change the advertising."
MillerCoors launched its own ads this week aimed at hitting back at Bud on TV.
The ads purport to show the actors in Bud Light's medieval themed ads leaving the set and drinking Miller Lite. The point? Bud Light might be better in the TV world, but in the real world, people prefer Miller beers, Anup Shah, vice president of Miller brands, said in a blog post.
Anheuser Busch shares were down 2.24 percent at $82.04 at the time of publication Friday, while Molson Coors shares were down 1.13 percent at $60.12.
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