As consumers have started to recognize the unhealthy effects of consuming corn syrup, more and more food and beverage manufacturers have removed or limited its use in their products. While beer has never been considered a health food, the battle over corn syrup appears to have made its way to the world of beer, starting with Anheuser-Busch’s Superbowl commercial showing an order of corn syrup being delivered by mistake to the castle of the fictional medieval king of Bud Light. The king then leads a quest to remedy the mistake by personally taking the corn syrup to the fictional king of MillerCoors.
MillerCoors, a brewer based out of Chicago, responded, first with its own ad campaign, then with a lawsuit alleging false advertising.
The legal battle between the two beer giants recently took another turn when Anheuser-Busch sued MillerCoors for allegedly stealing trade secrets. According to the lawsuit, an employee of an Anheuser-Busch brewery allegedly shared recipes with an employee of MillerCoors.
That employee is no longer working for Anheuser-Busch, although if the allegations are true, they might be able to get a job with MillerCoors.
The lawsuit filed by Anheuser-Busch asks for an injunction to prevent MillerCoors from using or sharing any of the allegedly stolen recipes. Anheuser-Busch has said it is intent on finding out how high up the corporate ladder of MillerCoors the alleged espionage extends.
MillerCoors responded with a statement saying that it has the utmost respect for trade secrets and that it takes the allegations seriously. That said, the statement also pointed out that Anheuser-Busch not only prints all of its ingredients on its packaging, but that it has spent millions of dollars telling the world what’s in Bud Light. The statement from MillerCoors implied that, in doing so, Anheuser-Busch forfeited any privacy of their recipe.
But a list of ingredients is not the same as a recipe. Other beverage manufacturers, such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola, have always been very secretive of the recipes for their beverages, despite the fact that they have always been required by law to print a full list of ingredients on their packaging. For some reason, alcoholic beverages have been exempt from that law, but Anheuser-Busch has recently decided to launch a campaign of transparency that includes listing the ingredients on their packaging.
But whether Anheuser-Busch is really as transparent as it claims to be is up for debate. As recently as September, a Wisconsin federal judge ordered Bud Light to stop including the “No Corn Syrup” label on its packaging, which extended an earlier ruling that barred Bud Light from running an ad campaign suggesting that Miller Light and Coors Light beers contain corn syrup.
Adam Collins, a spokesperson for MillerCoors, claims Anheuser-Busch beers have the same elements of corn syrup that the brewery has been accusing MillerCoors of having in its beers, suggesting Anheuser-Busch’s campaign of transparency isn’t as transparent as it claims to be. Collins pointed to that as the probable reason Anheuser-Busch has already lost three rulings related to the issue. Whether they’ll prevail in the latest trade secret lawsuit over its allegedly stolen recipe has yet to be determined.
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