Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI), the world’s biggest brewer, was sued by consumers in three U.S. states for allegedly overstating the alcohol content in its Budweiser beer.
AB InBev’s St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. routinely adds extra water to its finished products to produce malt beverages with significantly less alcohol content than displayed on its labels, violating state statutes on consumer protection, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia. Similar lawsuits were filed in federal courts in New Jersey and San Francisco.
“AB’s customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell,” Thomas and Gerald Greenberg said in the Philadelphia complaint…
The claims against Anheuser-Busch are “completely false,” Peter Kraemer, the company’s vice president of brewing and supply, said in an e-mail…“Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws,” Kraemer said….
The complaints accuse the AB InBev unit of also mislabeling the amount of alcohol in Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Black Crown, Bud Light Lime, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, Natural Ice and Michelob Ultra.
Josh Boxer, an attorney for plaintiffs in California, said additional lawsuits will be filed against the company in Ohio and Colorado. The California complaint, filed by Sonoma County residents Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert, seek to represent consumers in the state and consumers nationwide who have purchased AB InBev products in the past five years. All three complaints seek damages exceeding $5 million.
Total damages “could be quite significant based on the volume of products that AB produces a year,” Boxer said…
AB InBev allegedly keeps the alcohol level for each batch of malt beverage at specifications above the desired final product at least initially then adds water and CO2 to the final stage of the brewing process, according to the complaint.
The company began using in-line alcohol measuring instruments known as Anton Paar meters that can measure the alcohol content in malt beverages to within hundredths of one percent, according to the complaint. AB allegedly uses the precision technology to shave the alcohol content instead of providing consumers with a product based on the stated label, the Greenbergs said in the complaint.
Adding water to the brewing process cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 to 8 percent, Boxer said.
Budweiser announced the takeover move by InBev in 2006 – which was completed in 2009. Beaucoup Budweiser fans worried about an even larger corporate entity screwing with their favorite beer. I not only don’t drink anything from either, I don’t think anyone in my family does either. So, we never especially worried about their business ethics except within the context of marketing. Like could they screwup the English Football Association even more than the Brits managed to on their own?
Still, there is nothing more classic about capitalism than some scumbag “watering the beer” to increase profits. Should be an interesting case to follow.