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MillerCoors sues AB InBev unit over misleading corn syrup campaign

MillerCoors LLC has filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev SA's unit Anheuser-Busch over a misleading advertising campaign targeting its beer brands Miller Lite and Coors Light.

The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Wisconsin federal court, accuses Anheuser-Busch of designing, testing and launching false and misleading ads in order to deceive beer consumers into believing that there is corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup in Miller Lite and Coors Light.

The company also accuses Anheuser-Busch of misusing the Miller Lite and Coors Light trademarks.

Anheuser-Busch "plotted an extensive and pervasive advertising scheme designed to frighten consumers into switching away from Miller Lite and Coors Light to Bud Light," the suit states. Bud Light is Anheuser-Busch's product.

Corn syrup is a fermentation aid, used by brewers including Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. However, the final products do not contain the ingredient.

According to the lawsuit, Anheuser-Busch launched the campaign with a 60-second slot in Super Bowl 2019 for Bud Light. The ad allegedly mocks Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in brewing, as compared to Bud Light, which Anheuser-Busch claims is brewed with only water, rice, barley and hops.

MillerCoors also alleges that Anheuser-Busch's campaign is designed to take advantage of existing consumer confusion between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.

Since the launch during the Super Bowl broadcast, Anheuser-Busch has aggressively spread its campaign by spending millions of dollars on additional television commercials and misleading corn syrup-themed advertising materials across a variety of media channels, including radio, print, digital, social, out-of-home and retail, according to the suit.

MillerCoors is seeking an immediate halt to Anheuser-Busch's "continued false and misleading advertising claims and willful trademark dilution." The company is also asking for a trial by jury.

"This deliberate deception is bad for the entire beer category," MillerCoors said in an emailed statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence, adding that it is "showing the world the truth."

"MillerCoors' lawsuit is baseless and will not deter Bud Light from providing consumers with the transparency they demand," Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman Gemma Hart said in an emailed statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence. "We stand behind the Bud Light transparency campaign and have no plans to change the advertising."

MillerCoors is a unit of Molson Coors Brewing Co.