Miller Lite Fires Back at Bud Light’s Super Bowl Spot With Full-Page New York Times Ad

The campaign has sparked a conversation around corn syrup

Photo Iluustration, Amber McAden, Sources: Bud Light, Miller Lite, Getty Images

As part of a Super Bowl strategy that involved placing an ad in each quarter of the game, Bud Light utilized its medieval universe to point out that competitor Miller Lite utilizes “corn syrup” in two separate Super Bowl ads.

Today, Miller Lite responded with a full-page ad in The New York Times.

“We want consumers to know the facts about why and how Miller Lite uses corn syrup in the brewing process,” a MillerCoors spokesperson said, explaining the brand chose The New York Times for its reach and the size of its audience. “We want readers to know we are proud of our beers and proud of the ingredients we use in those beers. Corn syrup cleanly and efficiently converts to alcohol during fermentation and has a neutral taste. It isn’t added after brewing nor does it appear in the finished beer.”

There’s also a longer response on the MillerCoors blog to what it refers to as “a series of low-performing television spots aired during Sunday’s football game.” The post explains that “a corn-derived sugar or corn syrup called dextrose” is a brewing ingredient used in many beers “because it cleanly and efficiently converts to alcohol during fermentation and has a neutral taste.”

The MillerCoors spokesperson claimed that the brand has been “leading the way in transparency since 2014, when we first began disclosing the ingredients in our products,” and that for full transparency “ABI should have mentioned that none of our products include any high-fructose corn syrup, while several of theirs do.”

The spokesperson speculated that Bud Light’s Super Bowl approach had to do with “the fact that Bud Light has been in decline for years,” adding, “Shipments declined 6.7 percent in 2018, its largest percentage decline on record, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. They don’t have an answer for turning around the brand and are now lashing out at the competition.”

In response to Miller Lite’s full-page ad, a Bud Light spokesperson commented that its campaign “has always been about transparency,” and that the brand is “glad that other brewers have joined us in this conversation.”

It also acknowledged that while Bud Light does not use corn syrup in the brewing process, Anheuser-Busch In-Bev does use the product in “certain value brands.” The Belgium-based company also noted that it sources most of its ingredients from U.S. farms.

Here’s the brand’s response in full:

Bud Light’s campaign has always been about transparency and giving consumers what they want. We’re glad that other brewers have joined us in this conversation. Increased transparency can only be good for beer.

While Bud Light has never used corn syrup, Anheuser-Busch does use it in certain value brands, which are driven by price. Anheuser-Busch proudly supports farmers and the agricultural community. We source our ingredients from U.S. farmers, including 98 percent of our barley, 100 percent of our rice and all of our corn. Last year, Anheuser-Busch purchased more than 1 billion pounds of corn ingredients. We fully support corn growers and will continue to invest in the corn industry.

Consumers have made Bud Light the number one selling beer in the U.S. because it’s a quality light lager made with only four simple ingredients: water, barley, rice and hops. That’s a fact.”

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.