The Corn Syrup War between AB InBev and its competitor MillerCoors has entered its next stage. The world’s leading brewer has sued the number two in the U.S. market over illegally obtaining the secret recipes for its products Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.
On Thursday, AB InBev claimed that it had proof that a former employee who is now working for MillerCoors solicited around the time of the Super Bowl a former colleague who was at that time still working for AB InBev via text message the recipes of AB InBev’s beer brands, saying that he was asked by MillerCoors' senior management to provide information about Bud Light.
In March, MillerCoors sued AB InBev over controversial TV commercials which were aired during the Super Bowl in which AB InBev claimed that its product Bud Light was "brewed with no corn syrup" whereas MillerCoors’ two competing products Miller Lite and Coors Light are (inside.beer, 21.3.2019). The family-owned brewer argued that the commercials were misleading because consumers could get the impression that by drinking Coors Light and Miller Lite beers they were consuming high-fructose corn syrup, an artificial sweetener which is said to foster obesity. However, MillerCoors is using fructose corn syrup and not high-fructose corn syrup and any type of sugar is converted during the fermentation process to alcohol. Therefore hardly any high-fructose or fructose remains in the final product.
In May a court issued a preliminary injunction that Anheuser-Busch, AB InBev’s U.S. organization, needed to refrain from all further use of mentioning corn syrup from its advertisement campaigns and on social media without further context. In September the court extended the preliminary ban to Anheuser-Busch's packaging (inside.beer, 5.9.2019).
"Anheuser-Busch has lost three major federal rulings in this case and now they are simply trying to distract from the basic fact that they intentionally misled American consumers," Adam Collins, Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs at MillerCoors, said in a statement. "MillerCoors respects confidential information and takes any contrary allegations seriously, but if the ingredients are a secret, why did they spend tens of millions of dollars telling the entire world what's in Bud Light?" he added.
In the court documents AB InBev points out that its recipes are "extremely valuable" to competitors as they include all necessary informations to brew its beers including “geographic source, precise mixture, and specific varieties of the hops” and “the weights and volume of the mixture of the ingredients.” The company noted that the trade secrets in question are its “most important assets—specifically, the means and manner in which it brews its most popular beers.”