Market Overview

Battle Lines Drawn Over Corn In Beer After Super Bowl Ads

Battle Lines Drawn Over Corn In Beer After Super Bowl Ads

Anheuser Busch Inbev (NYSE: BUD) brewed a controversy over ingredients with a Super Bowl LIII ad poking fun at its top U.S. light beer competitors for using corn syrup.

But the ad, which some may have thought was one of the most interesting parts of an incredibly low-scoring Super Bowl game, didn’t just uncap a new fight with other brewers. It also angered the corn industry, which gave the brewer an earful over its implied criticism.

And in an era when rural Middle Americans often bristle at how they believe they’re treated by the urban, corporate half of the country, the ad may have been another perceived slight against the farm belt that some corn farmers are already saying will hurt Bud Light sales.

“America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you,” the National Corn Growers Association tweeted. 

The Bud Light ad poked the brand’s top two American rivals, Miller Lite and Coors Light, both of which are made by MillerCoors, a subsidiary of Molson Coors Brewing Co (NYSE: TAP).

In the ad, part of Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” series, medieval-era Bud Light brewers are accidentally delivered a barrel of corn syrup. They doth protest that Bud Light doesn’t contain corn syrup. So they go on a quest to deliver the barrel to the castles where Miller Lite and Coors Light are made. The brand ran two other ads during the Super Bowl following up on the quest. 

Whether angry corn farmers might be a big enough constituency for there to be any noticeable hit to Bud Light sales is unclear, but some corn farmers did take to Twitter to vent their anger.

Kevin Ross of Underwood, Iowa, made a Twitter video of pouring Bud Light down the drain, saying he was "disappointed in the aftertaste" of the ad.

Illinois corn farmer Matt Boucher noted on Twitter that most corn farmers probably already know Bud Light wasn’t brewed with corn syrup — and many probably don't care. But the ads, Boucher said on Twitter, are a problem because they imply there’s something wrong with corn.

MillerCoors responded from its official Twitter account, noting that Miller Lite is lower in calories and carbs than Bud Light, hitting back at what presumably was one of the Bud Light spot's aims: an implied statement about the health effects of ingredients. 

But MillerCoors may not have done much to make the corn growers happy, either. It also took a shot at a corn product by noting in its message that MillerCoors beers don't contain high fructose corn syrup — and saying that some Anheuser-Busch products do. 

Adam Collins, vice president of communications and community affairs for Chicago-based MillerCoors, chalked the Bud Light shot up to MillerCoors threatening Bud Light's market share. 

"When was the last time ABI used their Super Bowl ad to attack a competing brand?" Collins asked on Twitter. "Miller Lite has been gaining share for 17 straight quarters and someone's feeling the heat!"

Shares of Molson Coors were set to close down 0.23 percent at $65.84 at the time of publication Monday, while Anheuser Busch Inbev was trading 0.78-percent higher at $77.40. 

Related Links:

Molson Coors On Track To Outperform Beer Peers, Susquehanna Says

Anheuser Busch Analyst Says Share Price Has Gone Too Flat, M&A Unlikely

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