DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: The Bud Light knight is seen interacting with fans in the stands during regular season game action between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions on October 20, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: The Bud Light knight is seen interacting with fans in the stands during regular season game action between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions on October 20, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 20: The Bud Light knight is seen interacting with fans in the stands during regular season game action between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions on October 20, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If you typically watch the Super Bowl, you will likely remember when Bud Light ran multiple ads during Super Bowl 53 going after competitor Miller Lite for using corn syrup in its beer.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Miller Lite parent company Molson Coors (TAP) was not happy with the ads; nor was Big Corn. The National Corn Growers Association&nbsp;tweeted at Bud Light, “America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you,” while Coors Light tweeted, “Yes, we use corn syrup. It’s consumed by yeast during fermentation &amp; never ends up in the beer you drink. That’s just beer making.” Critics also pointed out that some other beers from Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), apart from Bud Light, do brew with corn syrup. Amid the pressure, Bud Light appeared to backtrack, tweeting, “Yeesh! That escalated quickly… In the Bud Light Kingdom we love corn too… we just don’t brew with the syrup.” Bud Light said in a statement, “We are not saying corn syrup is bad, we just don’t use it in Bud Light.”” data-reactid=”24″>Miller Lite parent company Molson Coors (TAP) was not happy with the ads; nor was Big Corn. The National Corn Growers Association tweeted at Bud Light, “America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you,” while Coors Light tweeted, “Yes, we use corn syrup. It’s consumed by yeast during fermentation & never ends up in the beer you drink. That’s just beer making.” Critics also pointed out that some other beers from Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), apart from Bud Light, do brew with corn syrup. Amid the pressure, Bud Light appeared to backtrack, tweeting, “Yeesh! That escalated quickly… In the Bud Light Kingdom we love corn too… we just don’t brew with the syrup.” Bud Light said in a statement, “We are not saying corn syrup is bad, we just don’t use it in Bud Light.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Molson Coors sued over the ads, and in May 2019, got a partial win when a Wisconsin federal judge barred AB InBev from using certain specific corn syrup language in TV ads and billboards (though it allowed one of the original Bud Light ads to keep running); last September, Molson Coors won again when the same judge ordered AB InBev to discontinue Bud Light packaging that touted, “No Corn Syrup” on the cardboard.” data-reactid=”25″>Molson Coors sued over the ads, and in May 2019, got a partial win when a Wisconsin federal judge barred AB InBev from using certain specific corn syrup language in TV ads and billboards (though it allowed one of the original Bud Light ads to keep running); last September, Molson Coors won again when the same judge ordered AB InBev to discontinue Bud Light packaging that touted, “No Corn Syrup” on the cardboard.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="But last week, 15 months after the initial ads first ran, the story changed. A federal appeals court overturned the Wisconsin judge’s ruling, handing AB InBev a huge win. (You’d be excused for having missed this latest beer-battle development amid much more important news about the coronavirus pandemic.)” data-reactid=”26″>But last week, 15 months after the initial ads first ran, the story changed. A federal appeals court overturned the Wisconsin judge’s ruling, handing AB InBev a huge win. (You’d be excused for having missed this latest beer-battle development amid much more important news about the coronavirus pandemic.)

Bud Light can now say whatever it likes, in advertising and on packaging, about corn syrup in its competitor’s beer.

Feb 1, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; A general view of replica Bud Light beer bottles at the Americana Hotel. The New England Patriots will play the Los Angels Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsFeb 1, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; A general view of replica Bud Light beer bottles at the Americana Hotel. The New England Patriots will play the Los Angels Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 1, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; A general view of replica Bud Light beer bottles at the Americana Hotel. The New England Patriots will play the Los Angels Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="And the appeals court was scathing in its ruling: “If Molson Coors does not like the sneering tone of Anheuser-Busch’s ads, it can mock Bud Light in return. Litigation should not be a substitute for competition in the market.”” data-reactid=”39″>And the appeals court was scathing in its ruling: “If Molson Coors does not like the sneering tone of Anheuser-Busch’s ads, it can mock Bud Light in return. Litigation should not be a substitute for competition in the market.”

The central complaint Molson Coors raised throughout this legal battle was that it’s misleading to call corn syrup an “ingredient” in its beers, since the corn syrup gets used up in the fermentation process and does not remain in the finished product. But the appeals court decision focused on a distinction between the language “ingredients” and “contains”—Bud Light has not advertised that Miller Lite “contains” corn syrup. “Common usage equates a product’s ingredients with its constituents,” the court writes. “By choosing a word such as ‘ingredients’ with multiple potential meanings, Molson Coors brought this problem on itself.”

As you’d expect, AB InBev is happy with the legal reversal, though its victory statement took pains not to dwell on the win, as it comes amid a global pandemic. “We have said since the beginning that this lawsuit brought by Molson Coors is baseless,” said a spokesperson. “Right now our focus is on supporting our employees, our communities, and our business partners during this unprecedented crisis.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Of course, the beer industry has been in a crisis of its own, since long before coronavirus. The recent sales declines have been well-documented, and coronavirus has reportedly exacerbated the trend. Americans are also drinking less overall, which has helped boost hard seltzer and non-alcoholic beer.” data-reactid=”42″>Of course, the beer industry has been in a crisis of its own, since long before coronavirus. The recent sales declines have been well-documented, and coronavirus has reportedly exacerbated the trend. Americans are also drinking less overall, which has helped boost hard seltzer and non-alcoholic beer.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Bud Light is the official beer sponsor of the NFL, but amid coronavirus closures of sports, the NFL season remains in some doubt.” data-reactid=”43″>Bud Light is the official beer sponsor of the NFL, but amid coronavirus closures of sports, the NFL season remains in some doubt.

So, can consumers expect to see Bud Light start advertising again about corn syrup in Miller Lite, once the pandemic is behind us? AB InBev declined to answer.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and often covers the beverage business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.” data-reactid=”46″>Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and often covers the beverage business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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