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MillerCoors Suing Anheuser-Busch Over Corn Syrup Commercials

Suit Claims Commercials Deliberately Misleading

Miller Lite beer moves along on a conveyor belt
In this March 11, 2015 photo, newly-filled and sealed cans of Miller Lite beer move along on a conveyor belt, at the MillerCoors Brewery, in Golden, Colo. Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

MillerCoors has filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch claiming their rival has launched a false and misleading advertising campaign meant to frighten people.

The beer battle began Super Bowl Sunday when Bud Light launched and ad campaign discrediting Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in their products.

MillerCoors spokesman Martin Maloney said most brewers use an adjunct product as a source for fermentation. Bud Light uses rice and MillerCoors uses corn syrup, which isn’t in the final product.

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No MillerCoors products use high fructose corn syrup.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Madison, MillerCoors alleges Anheuser-Busch is deliberately creating confusion with customers, particularly women.

MillerCoors has asked the ad campaign be discontinued and false claims be stopped.

“We have always believed in transparency, which is why we were the first major brewer to put nutritional information and all of our ingredients online,” Maloney said. “But while its Bud Light brand is talking all about transparency, Anheuser-Busch has admitted that its campaign was designed to mislead the public.”

Maloney cited an article in Food & Wine Magazine where an executive at Anheuser-Busch said focus groups found consumers don’t differentiate between high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, and that it’s a major triggering point in choosing brands to purchase, particularly among women.

“Anheuser-Busch is fear mongering 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,” Maloney said. “This deliberate deception is bad for the entire beer category.”

An Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman said MillerCoors’ 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,” said Gemma Hart, vice president of communications for Anheuser-Busch.

According to the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Anheuser-Busch Inbev had 41.6 percent of the market share in 2017, the latest numbers available. That’s down from 2007, when Anheuser-Busch had 48.3 percent of market share, according to the group.

MillerCoors LLC had 24.3 percent of the market share in 2017, which is also down from 2007, when the company had 29.4 percent of market share.