A Wisconsin federal judge has ruled that Anheuser-Busch must stop suggesting in their advertising that MillerCoors contains corn syrup.
Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled in favor of MillerCoors on some — but not all — key elements of the brewer’s request for a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch, which argued a Bud Light ad campaign deliberately deceived the public. The federal court also denied Anheuser-Busch’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The new federal ruling bars Anheuser-Busch from using specific language featured prominently during the recent ad campaign in any future commercials, print advertising, or social media. Specifically, within 10 days of the ruling Anheuser-Busch is barred from:
- Saying Bud Light contains “100% less corn syrup”;
- Referencing Bud Light and “no corn syrup” without any reference to “brewed with,” “made with” or “uses”;
- Describing “corn syrup” as an ingredient “in” the finished product.
“We are pleased with today’s ruling that will force Anheuser Busch to change or remove advertisements that were clearly designed to mislead the American public,” said MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley. “As the dominant market leader, Anheuser Busch should be seeking to grow the beer category, not destroy it through deceptive advertising. Their campaign is bad for the public, bad for the beer industry and against the law. We are happy to hold them accountable for it, and we look forward to the next steps in this case.”
The judge deferred ruling on whether the existing Bud Light packaging, which proclaims the beer has “no corn syrup,” will have to be removed from stores. The two parties will brief the court on their views in that aspect in the coming weeks.
Although the judge ruled it must pull some advertisements, Anheuser-Busch is still calling the ruling, “A victory for consumers as it allows Bud Light’s Super Bowl advertising to continue,” said Cesar Vargas, Anheuser-Busch VP of Legal & Corporate Affairs
The ruling also said, “The court finds that plaintiff’s (MillerCoors) evidence is sufficient to support a finding at the preliminary injunction stage that it has some likelihood of success of proving defendant’s advertisements deceived or have the tendency to deceive a substantial segment of consumers to believe that Miller Lite and Coors Light actually contain corn syrup.”
In addition, “Plaintiff’s (MillerCoors) strongest evidence is the defendant’s (Anheuser Busch) own statements indicating that in launching this campaign, it was aware of and intended to exploit consumer concerns about corn syrup… these statements support a finding that defendant was aware of consumer concerns about the likelihood of confusion surrounding corn syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup, and that the defendant hoped consumers would interpret advertising statements about “made with corn syrup” or “brewed with corn syrup” as corn syrup actually being in the final products.”