Business

Bud Light's corn syrup snub riles Iowa farmers

Super Bowl commercial bashes corn syrup, but another lauded for touting wind energy

Bud Light bottles at Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday. (Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)
Bud Light bottles at Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday. (Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

In two commercials that aired during Sunday night’s Super Bowl LIII, the makers of Bud Light and Budweiser managed to create excitement and disdain for two of Iowa’s biggest industries.

One commercial touting Anheuser-Busch InBev’s commitment to renewable energy generated buzz among Iowa’s wind energy advocates, while another ad bashing corn syrup got in the ear of Iowa’s corn industry.

In one medieval-themed ad, a Bud Light kingdom transports unwanted corn syrup to castles belonging to Miller Lite and Coors Light. The message is that Bud Light is “brewed with no corn syrup,” unlike its market competitors.

Shortly after seeing the ad, Kevin Ross, first vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, posted on Twitter a video of him pouring out a can of beer, saying “Bud Light, you’re not standing with corn farmers. We’re not standing with you.”

Ross, who farms near Underwood in western Iowa, said he was disappointed in what he called a misleading commercial.

“This one struck a nerve with me,” Ross told The Gazette Monday. “It’s just unfortunate you would use a platform like the Super Bowl to try to mislead people.”

By Monday afternoon. Ross’ tweet had more than 600 retweets and nearly 2,300 likes.

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Bob Hemesath, a director with Iowa Corn Growers Association, said it was unfortunate seeing a company drag the corn industry into a fight with competitors.

“It was a marketing ploy, I get that. I get trying to get market share and all businesses do that, but it’s one thing to use a marketing ploy, but to be deceptive about it was what was really kind of irritating or upsetting to us as the corn industry,” said Hemesath, who farms near Calmar. “It led viewers to believe that corn was a bad product.”

High-fructose corn syrup is commonly used as a sweetener in sodas and other flavored drinks. It is chemically similar to table sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“It is known, however, that too much added sugar of all kinds — not just high-fructose corn syrup — can contribute unwanted calories that are linked to health problems,” the Mayo Clinic states.

Ross said Anheuser-Busch officials reached out to the National Corn Growers Association before the end of Sunday’s football game and hopes the two groups can have a positive conversation.

Anheuser-Busch said it “fully supports” corn growers and will continue to invest in the industry. “Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercials are only meant to point out a key difference in Bud Light from some other light beers,” it said in a statement.

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In addition to the corn syrup ad, another Anheuser-Busch commercial Sunday night portrayed a dog perched atop a Budweiser wagon being pulled by the brewer’s iconic Clydesdale horses. A horizon full of spinning wind turbines can be seen in the background as Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” plays.

The ad is meant to showcase the company’s emphasis on renewable energy.

“We are proud that Budweiser is the first major beer brand to be brewed with 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power; we hope our efforts inspire others in our pursuit for a more sustainable future,” Angie Slaughter, vice president of sustainability at Anheuser-Busch, said in a recent news release.

A report on the U.S. wind industry released Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association notes that the end of last year was the third strongest quarter in the wind industry’s history.

The report also notes that Iowa, which had fallen to No. 3 in total installed wind capacity in 2017 behind Texas and Oklahoma, reclaimed its second-place spot.

Kerri Johannsen, energy program director with the Iowa Environmental Council, said Budweiser’s wind energy commercial showed that wind is marketable, popular and growing in demand.

“It is exciting to have wind featured in such a prominent cultural event for the U.S. Just as wind has become part of our identity here in Iowa, hopefully this is a sign that embracing a future of clean, renewable energy is becoming part of how we, as Americans, see ourselves as well,” she said in an email to The Gazette.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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