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Battle of the Lightweights: Do Other Light Beers Taste Like Water?

Patrick Coffee at Wall Street Journal

Photo by Teo Do Rio / Unsplash

Brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA has scored at least a temporary win in the long-running battle over light beer brands’ marketing claims.

BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division, an ad-industry self-regulatory group, determined that Molson Coors Beverage Co. should stop marketing its light beer products by implying that those produced by rivals have little or no flavor.

AB InBev earlier this year filed a challenge to a mid-2022 ad for Molson Coors’s Miller Lite in which a cyclist pours a can of generic light beer all over his face while a voice-over reads, “Light beer shouldn’t taste like water. It should taste like beer.”

The ad didn’t specifically mention AB InBev brands, which include Michelob Ultra and Bud Light, but the National Advertising Division found that the ad made a measurable claim without appropriate supporting evidence.

“Reliable sensory testing could demonstrate whether consumers detect a watery taste or the complete absence of taste,” the group said. “Consumers may also reasonably expect that the statement is supported by such evidence.”

“In most cases, we find that…if you’re in an area where you’ve got an unnamed competitor who people generally always compare you to, that consumers are going to take away a message about one of those competing products,” said Laura Brett, vice president of the National Advertising Division.

An AB InBev spokesman praised the decision. “True stewards of the beer industry should be working together to strengthen the beer category instead of resorting to misleading attacks that denigrate products enjoyed by millions of beer drinkers,” he said.

Molson Coors plans to appeal, according to Chief Communications Officer Adam Collins.

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