Anheuser-Busch tries to make amends with corn farmers after Super Bowl ad
Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN Business
(CNN) — Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, is looking to make amends with the National Corn Growers Association after the beer giant aired commercials with the slogan “brewed with no corn syrup” during Sunday’s Super Bowl.
A representative of the beer giant emailed the corn farmers’ group late Sunday “looking to make it right” and asking for a meeting with farmers, according to Neil Caskey, Vice President of Communications for the National Corn Growers Association.
Anheuser-Busch confirmed they are in contact with the group and Caskey says his team is willing to hear them out.
The olive branch comes after Bud Light released multiple commercials during the Super Bowl touting the fact that Bud Light is sweetened with rice rather than corn syrup.
In Bud Light’s first ad, the Bud Light King, Bud Knight and friends are trying to figure out what to do with a corn syrup barrel that was erroneously delivered to them. They set out to the Miller Lite castle to see if it is theirs — but alas they already have their delivery of corn syrup. Finally, they make it to the Coors Light castle who has been looking for their corn syrup barrel.
The ad was meant to be funny but the National Corn Growers Association, or NCGA, wasn’t laughing. After the Bud Lights ads aired, the group posted a tweet in response to the ad: “America’s corn farmers are disappointed with you… thanks Miller Lite and Coors Lite for supporting our industry.”
“After we picked our jaws off the ground — we realized we had to say something,” said Caskey, who worked with colleagues to craft the tweet. “It was a punch to corn farmers right in the gut. It was damaging to corn, and it leads people to believe that corn is a bad ingredient.”
An Anheuser-Busch spokesperson said in a statement: “Last year, Anheuser-Busch purchased more than 1 billion pounds of corn ingredients. 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. This effort is to provide consumers transparency and elevate the beer category.”
Corn syrup has gotten a bad rap amid the national obesity epidemic. Both Miller and Coors use it in their beers, while Bud Light uses rice. Corn syrup and rice act as sweeteners for beer.
Corn farmers have taken a beating in the last year. The trade war with China put a 25% tariff on US corn exports — which has left many farmers across the country unable to sell their corn for a fair price. Last month’s government shutdown closed USDA offices that were in charge of processing farmer’s relief payments that help offset lost revenue because of tariffs.
“It’s been a tough few years in corn farming and agriculture in general,” said Caskey. “It’s not fun when people get together with family and friends to watch a game — and the first ads were hitting corn farmers.”
In a statement in response to Bud Light’s ads Mark Recker, President of the Iowa Corn Growers Association said in part, “Iowa is the number one corn producing state, and the top crop grown in our country. This attack especially hits home at a time when farmers are hurting due to challenging economic conditions.”
And in Polo, Illinois, Brian Duncan has had about half a million bushels of unsold corn sitting in silos. Before the tariffs he sold his corn for north of $4 a bushel, now he’s selling for about $3.65 a bushel.
“I am not angry, just disappointed,” said Brian Duncan, vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau of the Bud Light ad. “Maybe I am getting used to my occupation and products being smeared for the sake of a marketing ploy.”
Kevin Ross, a sixth-generation family farmer from Minden, Iowa posted a video of himself on twitter pouring cans of Bud Light into his sink shortly after the ad aired. “Bud Light, you’re not standing with corn farmers, we’re not standing with you,” he said in the video. Other farmers from around the country have started to do the same on twitter.
Other beer brewers saw an opportunity to jump into the conversation. Miller Lite tweeted a message thanking Bud Light for including them in their first Super Bowl ad in over 20 years but pointing out the nutritional differences between the two beers.
And Sam Adams tweeted “No corn syrup AND no rice.” Their beer is sweetened with barley.