Bud Light ran a medieval-themed commercial during the Super Bowl last Sunday that’s upset a lot of corn growers. We drank up the debate, and like corn growers, found some of the facts difficult to swallow. Maybe Bud Light is still a bully.
Bud Light’s Medieval Super Bowl Ad
Diego Flammini of Farms.com describes the ad and why corn growers are pushing back. The commercial was called “Special Delivery” and starts with a king explaining how beer is brewed. Then, his subjects suddenly present him with a large barrel of corn syrup.
“That’s not ours, we don’t brew Bud Light with corn syrup,” the king says in the commercial.
But apparently, Miller Lite does. And so does Coors Light. So, the group of men are depicted in various scenes representing the journey that they go on to return the barrel of corn syrup to the rightful owner. The barrel eventually ends up at the Coors Light castle.
You can watch the full commercial below.
Corn Growers, Industry Not Pleased
Predictably, corn growers aren’t happy about how corn syrup is portrayed in the ad. Ryan Buck, a corn grower from Goodhue, Minnesota told Farms.com,
“Corn syrup has been under attack for a long time, and that kind of imagery isn’t going to help the industry,” he told Farms.com.
President of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Curt Mether said,
“I was really disappointed with the commercial. It made corn syrup look like it’s bad when it really isn’t.”
The National Corn Growers Association also had a response that they shared on Twitter. We should note that their home base is in St Louis- just like Anheuser-Busch- the company that makes Bud Light.
“.@BudLight America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you,” the organization said on Twitter yesterday. “Out office is right down the road! We would love to discuss with you the many benefits on corn! Thanks @MillerLite and @CoorsLite for supporting our industry.”
Distancing From Corn Syrup and HFCS
Twitter blew up with posts from corn growers dumping out their Bud Light #dumpdillydilly. But maybe they should be dumping out their Miller Lite and Coors Light too. Gina Salamone of the New York Daily News wrote an article yesterday titled, “Bud Lite Super Bowl Ad Brags of Not Using Corn Syrup- But No One is Impressed.” She shared the response of the Molson Coors Brewing Company, which runs both Miller Lite and Coors Light. The company admittedly uses corn syrup in some of their beers to soften texture, prevent sugar crystallization and enhance flavor. But they’re not exactly coming to the corn industry’s rescue.
“At MillerCoors, we’re proud of our high-quality, great-tasting beers,” MillerCoors tweeted. “We’re also proud that none of our products include any high fructose corn syrup, while a number of Anheuser-Busch products do.”
No matter if it’s corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup- both of these beer companies are clearly trying to make an effort to distance themselves from either corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or both.
About Corn Syrup and Beer
This endeavor is a little deceitful. To start, Anheuser-Busch does use corn syrup in other products that it produces, like Busch Light and Natural Light. The company also uses high fructose corn syrup to make other beverages.
It is true that Bud Light does not use corn syrup. But instead, it just utilizes rice as a source of sugar for fermentation. Majita Gajanan of Time helps to clarify corn syrup’s role in beer brewing.
The inclusion of corn syrup in beer does not make a difference in nutrition or taste, according to beer industry and brewing experts. While it sounds similar to high fructose corn syrup—a sweetener commonly added to sodas and flavored beverages—corn syrup itself is a clear, sweet liquid derived from corn starch that contains glucose. Added to the beer brewing process, corn syrup is eaten by yeast, turning the sugars into alcohol, according to Kaylyn Kirkpatrick, a brewing extension associate at Cornell University working in the department of food sciences.
So corn syrup isn’t really in any of the beer. Its typically fermented out.
Efforts to Recover
After all of this push-back from this commercial, Anheuser-Busch is trying to recover. They said they did not intend to make agriculture look bad. They just wanted to point out the differences between beer competitors.
“Last year, Anheuser-Busch purchase more than one billion pounds of corn ingredients,” a company spokesperson told Farms.com in an email. “We fully support corn growers and will continue to invest in the corn industry.
Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercials are only meant to point out a key difference in Bud Light from some other light beers. The effort is to provide consumers transparency and elevate the beer category.”
Don’t Bully Corn
There are so many reasons why this entire ad campaign by Bud Light is hard to swallow- for anyone- not just corn growers. To start, its beer. Any attempt to differentiate one beer as somehow “healthier” or “better” because it doesn’t contain corn syrup is just plain ridiculous.
It also taps into this emotion that just doesn’t feel right on Super Bowl Sunday. Larry Lee of Brownfield Ag News explains it in his article, “Corn Growers Fire Back at Bud Light Super Bowl Commercial.” He spoke with Wisconsin Corn Growers President Doug Rebout.
“When they bash other people’s or other products, it’s a lot like when agriculture or any industry bashes someone else in their own industry, like organic versus conventional farming. If you want to promote your product, great, but do it on the merits of your own product without bashing someone else.”
Bud Light was attempting to use this campaign to point out its unique position in the marketplace, and to highlight its newer, more transparent labeling policy that is being implemented later this month. These are valid and important changes. However, choosing to bash an aspect of the corn industry right now was a poor choice. Through no fault of their own, Ag is struggling. With this commercial, Bud Light was basically just kicking the corn industry when they’re down. They still use corn syrup in many other products that they produce, and it turns out that there’s not really much corn syrup in beer anyway. It’s used for fermentation, not for added flavor. That’s why this Bud Light ad misses the mark.