NEW YORK: Anheuser-Busch InBev has agreed to adjust the labelling on its Beck's beer brand following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit which will also see the world's largest brewer refunding drinkers who mistakenly thought they were consuming imported beer.
Originally brewed in Bremen, Germany, production for the US market moved to St Louis in 2012 but the packaging continued to highlight its German ancestry with phrases such as 'originated in Bremen' and 'German quality' which, it was alleged, gave consumers a false impression of where the beer had been made.
"We believe our labelling, packaging and marketing of Beck's have always been truthful, transparent and in compliance with all legal requirements," said Jorn Socquet, vp/marketing at Anheuser-Busch.
He added that a compromise had been reached, under which the Made in the USA label will be made more prominent on bottles and boxes.
It is not the first time the brewer has run into such problems, as a similar case last year, also heard in a Miami court, argued that it had misrepresented to consumers that Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light beers were brewed in and imported from Japan when in fact they were produced in the USA but priced as a premium imported beer.
The Wall Street Journal highlighted the price differentials involved: true imported brands can cost 20% more than overseas brands now brewed in the US, and these in turn can command a 15% premium over domestic beers.
Other overseas brands, including Foster's (Australia), Red Stripe (Jamaica), also play on their heritage while being brewed in the US. Japanese brand Sapporo has taken a different tack, being brewed in Canada and so allowing cans and bottles sold in the US to be legitimately labelled as imported.
The distinction could be potentially expensive for Anheuser-Busch. It will have to pay around $3.5m in legal fees while Beck's drinkers who can produce valid receipts can claim a refund of up to $50; even those without receipts can claim up to $12.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff