This Bud’s Not Water, Anheuser-Busch Counters in Ads

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the brewer sued last week for allegedly overstating the alcohol content of its Budweiser and other beers, hit back today with an advertising campaign in major U.S. newspapers.

“They must have tested one of these,” the full-page ads say, showing a can of the drinking water that the company donates to the American Red Cross for disaster relief. “We take no shortcuts and make no exceptions. Ever.”

The ads appeared in 10 newspapers, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Houston Chronicle, Terri Vogt, a spokeswoman for AB InBev’s St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos., said in an interview today.

The company was responding to federal lawsuits filed last week by consumers alleging that it routinely adds extra water to finished products to produce malt beverages with significantly less alcohol content than displayed on its labels, violating state statutes on consumer protection. The complaints were filed in New Jersey, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Leuven, Belgium-based AB InBev is the world’s largest brewer and controls 39 percent of the U.S. beer market. “The claims against Anheuser-Busch are completely false, and these lawsuits are groundless,” Peter Kraemer, the unit’s vice president of brewing and supply, said in a statement posted on its website Feb. 27.

The brewer’s ads are “classic non-denial denials which completely ignore the merits of our lawsuit,” Josh Boxer, an attorney at the Mills Law Firm in San Rafael, California, wrote in an e-mail today. The firm is representing plaintiffs in the San Francisco case.

Seeking Approval

AB InBev is seeking government approval to buy the rest of Grupo Modelo SAB, Mexico’s largest beermaker, for $20.1 billion. The Modelo brands account for 7 percent of the U.S. market.

The company’s shares rose about 43 percent to 72.23 euros in Brussels in the year through March 1, outpacing an 11 percent increase in the BEL 20 Index.

The case is Greenberg v. Anheuser-Busch Cos LLC, 13-cv-01016, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

(Updates with attorney’s comment in the sixth paragraph.)
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