I was casually watching the Super Bowl last week, when your most recent ad appeared. As you are well aware by now, it was not well received by farmers across the country. As is common in today’s society, there were a lot of threats to never consume Bud Light again, etc. But I want to go a different direction.
It took several days of thinking about the issue, browsing comments on Ag Twitter, and listening to commentary on some of my favorite Ag shows (AgriTalk specifically). But now I want to tell you what I wish large companies such as Anheuser-Busch (AB/In-Bev) focused their marketing on.
Bud Lite has never been made with corn syrup – it is made with rice. You know this. It has always been made with rice. Beer requires sucrose of some form during the brewing process. Some use rice, some use corn syrup, some use sugar beets, some use sugar cane, some even use honey. The various forms of sucrose can impact the flavor profile and it also allows brewers to brew large quantities with uniform flavor. Rice sets Bud Light apart.
AB In-Bev is a huge consumer of corn. Estimates from the National Corn Growers Association put your consumption of corn globally at over $1 billion per year (heard on AgriTalk on Friday). That makes your company a significant customer for corn growers in the United States and elsewhere. Bud Light Lime for example, as well as several other beers produced by AB In-Bev, is in fact brewed with dextrose (corn syrup). It is an important and essential ingredient for many of your other flavor profiles.
So here is what I hope you will consider, and this applies uniformly to any company that chooses to market on what is not in their product instead of celebrating what is. Perhaps you could have celebrated rice producers. Celebrated the very people that grow the one raw ingredient that sets your flavor profile apart.
USA Rice Federation and the many rice producers across the country would have loved to have been showcased in your commercials. Celebrating the high quality products they raise that ensure your ability to provide the flavor profile your customers depend on would have been amazing. The rice industry in the U.S. has some amazing advocates, including Rice Farming TV, and I am certain they would have been eager to partner with Bud Light and AB In-Bev.My greatest hope as an advocate for agriculture in the U.S. and globally is that we can stop trying to elevate one product or another above another (especially when that elevation is not supported by science).
I know advertising is tough. I know the food industry in general is tough. The margins are slim. You are competing for a very small market share advantage. I know agriculture producers represent a very, very small percentage of your customer base. But I also know that agriculture in general, loves to see themselves as well as other producers celebrated. Celebrating and highlighting the high quality ingredients raised by farmers world wide is a win for you, a win for agriculture, and a win for your consumers.
I hope for your next advertising campaign that you do choose to focus on what makes your products great. AB In-Bev and Bud Light are critically important customers for agricultural producers across the United States. Barley (we are proud malt barley producers), rice, and corn producers across the country have contracts every year to raise high quality ingredients for you. We would love to celebrate those products, we would love to showcase them for a wide audience.