Corn Blog by Kaitlin Donovan, KS Corn Staff

What’s the Deal with #DumpDillyDilly? Bud Light Picks a Fight with Corn Farmers

Like many Kansans, I began Super Bowl LIII with an attitude saltier than the corn chips I was eating, simply because we were watching the Patriots instead the Kansas City Chiefs. But it’s the Super Bowl, and even if you don’t like the teams playing the game, you at least have to check out the commercials, right?

However, early in the evening corn farmers across the country began pouring can after can of Bud Light beer down the drain. This protest was in reaction to Anheuser-Busch’s choice to use their more than $5 million Super Bowl advertising budget to boast about the lack of corn syrup used in production of Bud Light. And it wasn’t just one early commercial, it was multiple commercials throughout the evening.

I want to make it very clear that most farmers are not upset because Bud Light doesn’t use corn in their production. Every recipe is different and not every beer needs to be made with corn, we have whiskey for our corn-loving drinkers.

The issue lies in the fact Bud Light called out their competition, during the biggest stage in the advertising world, specifically for using corn syrup, thereby adding to the hysteria and fearmongering associated with negative perceptions of corn and corn products as a food ingredients.

While their beer lacks corn syrup, their advertising campaign lacked integrity. These commercials, mislead viewers into believing corn is an unhealthy ingredient to boost sales, while ultimately hurting the reputation of the hardworking men and women who grow the crop.

**Disclaimer, while being an employee of Kansas Corn, I am also the fourth generation to grow up on my family’s farm in southwest Kansas. I also married into a family that has been loyal to Anheuser-Busch for multiple generations. Like many others watching last night, these ads felt like a betrayal.

So as you’re dumping the Dilly Dilly beer in protest, here’s some information to share with your friends who may not understand farmers’ concerns.

Why is corn syrup used in beer brewing?

If you read this article from the website Brew Your Own, it talks about the history of using corn in beer production. Mixing grain types in a recipe provides different flavors to a beer, not necessarily health benefits. But this is something never implied during the Bud Light campaign, maybe they don’t think their taste is good enough to campaign on any more?

To understand how corn syrup is used as a sugar in beer production, we first must understand corn syrup itself. Here’s a quick chemistry lesson:

  1. Syrup, by definition, is a thick sticky liquid derived from a sugar-rich plant.
  2. There are two types of sugar in common sweeteners; glucose, and fructose.
  3. Corn syrup is a natural product made from single-molecule sugars (glucose) found in the corn kernel. It’s basically glucose suspended in water.

It takes sugar or sweetener of some form, either maltose from malt or glucose from corn, to complete the brewing process. And then in the end, refined sugars are eliminated in the fermentation process anyway.

Men’s Health Magazine asked one of their nutrition advisors, Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., to weigh in on the health affects of corn syrup in beer. Here’s his response:

“Sugar is used in the brewing process to feed the yeast as part of the fermentation, so the sweetener used for brewing beer is a moot point since the finished product does not have sugar,” Mohr says. “Rather than being concerned are arguing about the type of sweetener used to brew beer, worry about how much beer you’re drinking.”

What about High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Both Miller Lite and Coors Light took to social media in defense over the commercial controversy, stating that while they use corn syrup they do not use high-fructose corn syrup. You can read more about the brewing process at MillerCoors here.

This response really isn’t much better. In today’s world, any response about using or not using an ingredient without providing at least a short explanation as to why, is going to be damaging to whatever industry produces that product. Whether it’s corn, wheat, barley or cane sugar; they are all crops that are carefully grown and cared for by a farmer who dedicates his or her life to producing that grain.

And just to set the record straight, here’s some information about high-fructose corn syrup, because if you didn’t already know it is different than natural corn syrup, but still not a villain.

  1. Fructose is sweeter than glucose.
  2. Manufacturers developed high fructose corn syrup, which is processed with enzymes to create a sweeter syrup. Regular corn syrup is 100 percent glucose, while HFCS can be a blend of either 42 or 55 percent fructose and the rest being glucose.
  3. Table sugar, also known as sucrose, is composed of both glucose and fructose like HFCS. However, in the U.S. we produce more corn than sugar cane, making HFCS a more accessible alternative.
  4. Because they are sweeter than regular corn syrup, manufacturers don’t have to use as much of sucrose or HFCS in their products, which helps reduce production costs.

For more information on HFCS and its uses beyond just a sweetener visit the Corn Refiners Association’s webpage.

Blog By: Kaitlin Donovan, Western Kansas Corn Crew Rep. and Communications Coordinator

Remember, always pick up your Bud Light cans after you pour them out and go ahead and recycle them so the aluminum can be reused for corn-friendly beverages.