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MillerCoors takes another swipe at Bud Light for its Super Bowl ad

Category: Finance,Retail

MillerCoors took another swipe at Bud Light Monday in a blog post that shared the rival beer's falling sales since it aired its controversial Super Bowl ad.

Anheuser-Busch InBev bought five-and-a-half minutes of airtime for the 2019 Super Bowl, but it was a single 60-second commercial for Bud Light that made the biggest waves. The ad shamed Molson Coors Brewing's Miller Lite and Coors Light beers for using corn syrup, leading to backlash from both farmers and MillerCoors, Molson's U.S. division.

After the ad aired, MillerCoors responded on Twitter and took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to hit back at Bud Light and defend its use of corn syrup.

Miller Lite and Coors Light use corn syrup to feed yeast in the brewing process. Once the yeast eats the corn syrup, it turns into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Anheuser-Busch uses rice to feed the yeast when it brews Bud Light.

The commercial also jeopardized the future of an alliance meant to help the biggest U.S. beer producers. The Wall Street Journal first reported that MillerCoors pulled out of a meeting scheduled this month with AB InBev, Heineken and Constellation Brands. The four beer companies had been discussing teaming up for a national ad campaign to revive U.S. beer sales for more than a year before the Super Bowl commercial aired.

U.S. beer consumption has been declining as consumers drink more spirits and wine or eschew alcohol altogether. Last year, unit case volume of beer declined by 1.5 percent, according to IWSR data. To make matters worse for the country's biggest beer producers, craft beers have been eating into big brewers' sales.

But MillerCoors places the blame for Bud Light's declining sales squarely on the Super Bowl commercial. In a blog post citing Nielsen data, the brewer said that Bud Light sales volume declined 9.2 percent from the previous year in the four weeks since the Super Bowl. In the 12 weeks prior the football game, sales volume for the beer was down 6.7 percent.

MillerCoors also noted that while Bud Light's market share has declined, Miller Lite has gained market share while Coors Light is holding its own in the premium lights category, according to Nielsen data. However, it did not share its own sales volume growth.

"It's clear that Bud Light's desperate attempt to mislead consumers is not helping them," Anup Shah, vice president of the Miller Family of Brands, said in a statement.

Anheuser-Busch did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson from Nielsen wasn't immediately available to confirm the data cited in the blog post.

Ries & Ries branding consultant Laura Ries said that MillerCoors' comments are a throwback to the cola wars between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in the 1980s.

"That tends to put off consumers when there is too much negativity — and they're thinking too much of their competitors before the consumers," she said.

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