U.S. farmers are criticizing Anheuser-Busch, ABInBev’s U.S. American arm, for one of its commercials for Bud Light aired during yesterday’s Super Bowl. The brewer declares in a 60-second spot called "Special Delivery" that ran in the first quarter of the most-watched TV show of the year that its products were "brewed with no corn syrup."
The ad that is set in the "Game of Thrones"-inspired medieval world shows a giant barrel of corn syrup being erroneously delivered to the Bud Light castle before it's diverted to Coors Light and Miller Lite castles, which both use corn syrup. "To be clear, Bud Light is not brewed with corn syrup, and Miller Lite and Coors Light are," Bud Light added on Twitter.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is made from corn starch is widely used as an artificial sweetener in the US food industry. Critics of HFCS refer to studies that show that the ingredient leads to obesity and diabetes epidemics.
"America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you," said the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) online, shortly after the Super Bowl advert aired. The organization which represents 40,000 corn farmers nationwide and its members are upset that corn is advertised “in a way that insinuates that corn is bad when in fact it isn’t.”
As of this month Anheuser Busch as the first beer company in the U.S. lists the ingredients for Bud Light on its packaging which isn’t required for alcoholic beverage. “We think it is good for the beer industry as a whole to be transparent about what’s in your beer,” says Andy Goeler, Vice President of Marketing for Bud Light. “Just as important as what’s in is what’s not in our beer. … No corn syrup, no preservatives, no artificial flavors.”
In marketing it's unusual for a bigger brand to target smaller competitors; typically, the smaller challengers try to tweak the bigger brand. The reason for this unusual behavior of Bud Light seems to be the steady decline of the brand. Shipments of Bud Light which is still by far the market leader in this segment fell 6.7 percent last year, its largest annual percentage decline on record.
Miller Lite which ‘only’ fell 3.8 percent last year commented the commercial as follows: “Hey Bud Light, thanks for including us in our first Super Bowl ad in over 20 years. You forgot two things though... we have more taste and half the carbs!”
“At MillerCoors, we're proud of our high-quality, great-tasting beers. We're also proud that none of our products include any high fructose corn syrup, while a number of Anheuser-Busch products do. And Miller Lite has fewer calories, fewer carbs and more taste than Bud Light.”