James Wilmore

In the Spotlight: Anheuser-Busch InBev Faces Media Glare over 'Watering Down' Claims

By | 28 February 2013

Budweiser is among the brands that is a subject of the lawsuits

Budweiser is among the brands that is a subject of the lawsuits

Timing can be everything, especially when it comes to PR. The news that Anheuser-Busch InBev is facing lawsuits in three US states for allegedly “watering down” its beers coincided with the group reporting its full-year results yeserday (27 February).

It’s a fair bet that the lawyers involved timed their press release in order to gain maximum impact and column inches. The accusations, which A-B InBev strongly denies, managed to secure press coverage on both sides of the Atlantic. 

From the BBC in the UK, which ran an interview with the lead lawyer in the case, to Time magazine in the US, there was no shortage of coverage for the claims. Time’s story - which carried the headline 'Lawsuit Says Anheuser-Busch Beers Are Even More Watered Down Than You Think’ - noted that each of the three lawsuits so far filed are seeking “more than US5$m” in damages. 

So, who are the plaintiffs in the case? Among them are two brothers, Thomas and Gerald Greenberg of Montgomery County. And, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the siblings should know what they’re on about. Thomas has been drinking two cases a month of Budweiser, while his brother claims to be drinking four cases a month. 

However, even though it was Budweiser that caught all the headlines, it’s not just A-B InBev’s flagship beer that’s accused. As the Washington Post reported, it is ten products: Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime. 

Bloomberg also noted that the lawsuits are seeking a court order requiring A-B InBev to fund a “corrective advertising campaign” to remedy its "allegedly illegal conduct”.

Meanwhile, in The Guardian, beer blogger Mark Domnick used the story as a call to arms to encourage people to try craft beer instead

But, A-B InBev has rejected the accusations as "completely false", deeming the lawsuits "completely groundless".   

The last thing A-B InBev needs is another high-profile legal case, bearing in mind the Modelo-shaped blott on its landscape.

But, that appears to be what it has on its hands.

Expert analysis

Premium beer in North America – forecasts to 2016

This second report in our series on premium beer concentrates on North America, currently the second largest premium beer market in the world and how this market specifically has faired. It examines how the major players and smaller brewers have reacted to the challenges and changing trends. Highlighted is one of the most exciting and innovative offshoots of the industry since its emergence in the mid- to late-1980s, that of craft brewing.

Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: InBev, Modelo

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