A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against Anheuser-Busch InBev that prevents the company from stating its product has “no corn syrup.” The news comes after MillerCoors filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch over a recent ad campaign (including a Super Bowl spot that raised ire from farmers). In that campaign, Anheuser-Busch repeatedly stated that its product has “no corn syrup” and heavily implied that its competition does. The lawsuit accuses Anheuser-Busch of starting a “false and misleading advertising campaign” that said Miller Lite and Coors Light use corn syrup and insinuated the use of high-fructose corn syrup.
The U.S. District Judge William Conley from the Western District of Wisconsin stated, “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 percent of sales, that same jury could also find a substantial segment of consumers would infer that Bud Light’s principal competitors contain corn syrup.”
The ruling also states Anheuser-Busch can sell the Bud Light products using the packaging it has on hand as of June 6, 2019, or until March 2, 2020 — whichever occurs first. So don’t expect to see an immediate purge of all “no corn syrup” claims.
“Today’s ruling is another victory for MillerCoors, but more importantly it is another victory for the American public against deceptive advertising like Bud Light’s,” MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley said in a statement after the judge’s injunction. “Bud Light’s campaign was bad for the public, bad for the industry, and against the law. With this ruling, we are holding Bud Light accountable for their actions, and we will keep holding their feet to the fire every time they intentionally mislead the American public.”
The Super Bowl ad in particular led many corn farmers to state publicly they were disappointed in Bud Light and would be switching to a different beer. Since then, both the Miller Light and Coors Light brands have done much to connect with the agricultural segment that Bud Light alienated.
Anheuser-Busch is expected to appeal the federal decision.