The beer-corn war escalates as Bud Light fires back at MillerCoors
Anheuser Busch InBev and MillerCoors entered day four of their corn war Wednesday—and neither brewer shows any signs of backing off.
The latest salvo comes from Bud Light, which started it all with three Super Bowl ads slamming Coors Light and Miller Lite for using corn syrup. The brew on its social channels Wednesday issued a "scroll" from the king character in its medieval-themed campaign that says "In the Bud Light Kingdom we love corn too! Corn on the cob, corn bread, popcorn—we just don't brew with the syrup (what you also call 'dextrose.')"
A message from the King re: Corn Syrup. pic.twitter.com/IukZ0JZPZ3— Bud Light (@budlight) February 6, 2019
The response comes after MillerCoors this week railled support from members of corn industry, which rushed to the brewer's defense immediately after Bud Light's Super Bowl ads aired. On Tuesday, Pete Coors personally delivered a truckload of Miller Lite and Coors Light to a meeting of the National Corn Growers Association in Denver.
Earlier on Tuesday, Miller Lite ran a full-page ad in the New York Times addressed to the "beer drinkers of America" that makes the distinction between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, which MillerCoors does not use. "To be clear, 'corn syrup' is a normal part of the brewing process and does not even end up in your great tasting can of Miller Lite," the ad stated.
On Wednesday, an Anheuser-Busch InBev spokesman said: "To be clear, we are not saying corn syrup is bad, we just don't use it in Bud Light. It's a less expensive ingredient and we think a quality light lager only should include the best ingredients."
The fact that both brewers are keeping the fight alive shows that each side thinks they are winning. MillerCoors, through its messaging, seems pleased it has the ag industry on its side, while Bud Light seems determined to keep hitching its competitors to the words "corn syrup," and now "dextrose," in a calculation that the mere mention of it is a turnoff to consumers, no matter how MillerCoors actually uses it.
We won't know if either side got the upper hand—or if beer drinkers care at all—until sales results start coming in. But one thing is for sure: The spat, which is getting a lot of media attention, has rekindled the beer marketing wars at a time when Big Beer keeps losing ground to the spirits industry. That dynamic has left Beer Business Daily Editor Harry Schuhmacher, a longtime industry observer, wondering why Bud Light didn't aim its fire elsewhere.
But, as Ad Age pointed out Monday, both brewers seem to have calculated that the only way for each one to grow its market share in the declining category is to steal it from each other, meaning this fight won't end anytime soon.