In the midst of the ongoing Bud Light vs. Miller Lite and Coors Light #corntroversy, Bud Light confirmed in a recent interview that it’s flipping a rice-grain-shaped middle finger to the beer industry as a whole.
In an interview with Food & Wine on Thursday, Bud Light VP of Marketing Andy Goeler makes a few key, if nonsensical points: consumers know what corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are; Bud Light drinkers don’t want corn syrup in their bodies; and the brand was not tacitly implying corn syrup is “bad.” Rather, it only intended to be “transparent” about its ingredients. (To the latter point, Goeler used the word “transparent” or “transparency” in the interview no less than 11 times. Clearly, he needs a thesaurus.)
Here’s why his answers are hypocritical. In the interview, Goeler says “consumers … have concluded that they prefer not putting something like corn syrup” into their bodies. Corn syrup that’s used in beer — including in several of AB InBev’s other brands, by the way — does not get consumed. It’s a corn-derived fermentable sugar; the only ones consuming it are the yeast cells that turn it into alcohol.
When pressed about misconceptions regarding corn syrup vs. high-fructose corn syrup, Goeler disputes interviewer Mike Pomranz, saying, “I disagree with your point about consumers not knowing [the difference between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup],” and says his question is “underestimating” consumers. “These people are very tuned in to ingredients … They know what they are. They know what they want to consume and what they don’t want to consume.”
Moments later, Goeler mentions that since Bud Light’s corn-syrup-shaming ads aired during the Super Bowl, there have been “more searches on Google for ‘corn syrup’ than ever before.” Doesn’t that prove people don’t know what it is? “Yeah, and I think that’s awesome,” Goeler replies.
Hmm. If something is “awesome” here — in the literal sense of the word — it is what a BS answer this is. As Goeler mentions multiple times, Bud Light is the biggest beer brand in the country, and thus, a “leader” in the industry. This response is the best the leader of beer could come up with?
Finally, on Bud Light’s behalf, Goeler seems content with the recent news that Molson Coors pulled out of an industry-wide initiative — one that included Molson Coors, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Constellation Brands, and Heineken – to boost the beer category as whole. “It’s a leadership move,” he says of Bud Light’s controversial commercial.“It’s good for the beer category. So it’s all great,” he says.“[W]e’re very happy.”
Bud Light’s response does clear up the brand’s intentions. Instead, this response makes it clear that Bud Light succeeded in convincing consumers corn syrup is “bad,” and is now disingenuously gloating about it.
We don’t think AB InBev is off the hook just yet.