AB InBev set to appeal MillerCoors’ corn syrup legal win

AB InBev has vowed to appeal a ruling by a US court that stops it from using labels that say Bud Light does not contain corn syrup.

Rival brewer MillerCoors, the US arm of Molson Coors, filed a lawsuit in March this year after AB InBev ran adverts during the Super Bowl that criticised the former for using corn syrup in its own beer production.

The rift first began when AB InBev ran three adverts during the Super Bowl promoting its beer brand Bud Light. Using the brand’s tongue-in-cheek medieval theme, the ad highlighted the use of corn syrup by MillerCoors in its brands Miller Lite and Coors Light, ending with the tagline “Bud Light, brewed with no corn syrup”.

Corn syrup can be added in the brewing process to raise the level of fermentable sugars. Miller Coors has reiterated that it uses corn syrup rather than high-fructose corn syrup, the latter of which has been linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes.

MillerCoors filed a complaint with the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, pointing out the difference between HFCS and corn syrup, and adding that AB InBev also uses corn syrup in a number of its own products, such as Busch Light, Busch, and Stella Artois Cidre.

Federal judge William Colney issued an injunction against AB InBev this week preventing it from claiming its beers are corn syrup-free, and barring it from using any language implying this from its packaging, reports CNBC.

“In light of the limited number of beers in the light beer market, with Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light accounting for almost 100% of sales, that same jury could also find a substantial segment of consumers would infer that Bud Light’s principal competitors contain corn syrup, especially after a hundred million dollar television and print campaign misleadingly suggesting the same thing,” he said in the ruling.

“Bud Light is brewed with no corn syrup – plain and simple. We look forward to defending our right to inform beer drinkers of this fact at trial and on appeal,” a spokesperson at AB InBev told CNBC.

“MillerCoors is resisting consumer demands for transparency in the ingredients used to brew its beers, but those demands are here to stay. We will continue leading this movement in the beer industry.”

Pressure is mounting on large brewers to keep their share of the market as US sales of mainstream beer have started to decline.

According to recent figures released by US trade group the Distilled Spirits Council, last year spirits continued to gain market share at the expense of beer and wine, rising by 0.7% to 37.4% of the total alcohol market. The trade group revealed that in the past 20 years, beer’s US market share has fallen from 56% to 45.5%, while spirits and wine have increased their reach, rising from 28.2% to 37.3% and from 15.8% to 17.2% respectively.

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