According to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia, 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. “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 their complaint.
Similar lawsuits were filed in federal courts in New Jersey and San Francisco, with two more expected in Ohio and Colorado. Each of the three complaints already filed in court seek damages in excess of $5 million.
Anheuser-Busch InBev is the world's biggest brewer, controlling 39 percent of the U.S. beer market, and could gain an additional 7 percent if their purchase of Grupo Modelo SAB, Mexico's largest beer maker, is approved by the government.
In addition to Budweiser, America's No. 3 beer, he 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.
Peter Kraemer, the company’s vice president of brewing and supply, told Bloomberg the claims against Anheuser-Busch are “completely false. "Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws. We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the best-selling in the U.S. and the world.”
Josh Boxer, attorney for the California complainants, said the allegations based on information from former workers at some of the company’s 13 U.S. breweries. “On information and belief this is a corporate policy of AB to intentionally short the alcohol content. We believe this is a corporate policy that comes from AB InBev and trickles down.”
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. Adding water to the brewing process cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 to 8 percent, Boxer said. In addition to damages, the lawsuits are seeking a court order requiring Anheuser-Busch to fund a “corrective advertising campaign” to remedy its allegedly illegal conduct.