MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Wisconsin judge has ordered Anheuser-Busch to stop suggesting in ads that MillerCoors’ light beers contain corn syrup, wading into a fight between two beer giants that are losing market share to small independent brewers.
U.S. District Judge William Conley for the Western District of Wisconsin on Friday granted a preliminary injunction sought by MillerCoors that temporarily stops Anheuser-Busch from using the words “corn syrup” in ads without giving more context.
MillerCoors sued its rival in March, saying St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch has spent as much as $30 million on a “false and misleading” campaign, including $13 million in its first commercials during this year’s Super Bowl. However, the ruling did not affect all of Anheuser-Busch’s advertising targeting MillerCoors, allowing the commercials that premiered at the Super Bowl to keep airing.
Anheuser-Busch’s ad drew a rebuke from the National Corn Growers Association, which thanked MillerCoors for its support. In its lawsuit, MillerCoors said it’s “not ashamed of its use of corn syrup as a fermentation aid.”
Corn syrup is used by several brewers during fermentation. Bud Light is brewed with rice instead of corn syrup, but Anheuser-Busch uses corn syrup in some of its other beverages, including Stella Artois Cidre and Busch Light beer.
MillerCoors applauded the ruling and said Anheuser-Busch should be trying to grow the beer market, not “destroy it through deceptive advertising.”
“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.
Anheuser-Busch, however, called the ruling a “victory for consumers” because it allows the brand’s “Special Delivery” Super Bowl ad to continue airing.
That ad showed a medieval caravan pushing a huge barrel of corn syrup to castles for MillerCoors to make Miller Lite and Coors Light. The commercial states that Bud Light isn’t brewed with corn syrup. Anheuser-Busch said the ad would air as early as this weekend.