Thursday 8 July 2010

Inbev At It Again

It gets a bit irksome doesn't it?

"Contains Only Four Ingredients: Hops, Malted Barley, Maize, Water."

As beer geeks, we're clued up about our favourite beverage. We know that no decent beer ever "contains" maize (or corn syrup as it probably manifests itself.) It annoys us that Inbev UK Ltd have the bloody cheek to rely on the average customer's ignorance to make a selling point of a cheap adjunct.

It's also annoying that they choose to ignore the humble unsung-hero of brewing: lovely miracle-worker yeast.

This campaign first appeared a couple of years. It appears to have been revived. There are umpteen hoardings carrying the advert across Newcastle. I presume they have reappeared elsewhere too.

So rather than getting annoyed and bitching to each other about AB Inbev's attitude, why don't we do something about it?

As the "four ingredients" statement is untruthful in neglecting yeast, this advertising probably breaches advertising regulations. We should complain. In fact, I've done it already. It's easy; here's the link to the Advertising Standards Authority online form: I'm not sure that multiple complaints on individual subjects adds any weight, but it can't do any harm can it?

[Please make sure you complain about Inbev UK Ltd]

[You can see the results about other previous complaints about Stella advertising here]



Here's the rather predictable response fro the advertising standards people:

"Dear Mr Pickthall


 Thank you for contacting the Advertising Standards Authority.  I’m sorry to hear that this ad has caused you concern.

 You may be interested to know that we’ve previously received a few complaints about this ad.  Complaints included concerns that the ad didn’t list yeast and carbon dioxide as ingredients.

 We reviewed the ad and sought the advertisers’ response to these complaints. I should state from the outset that we will not be taking further action in respect of these complaints.  I realise you feel strongly about this ad, but please let me explain how and why we reached this view.

 The advertisers explained that the claim relates to the liquid produced at the end of the brewing process.  Both the advertisers and we accept that yeast is used in the brewing process to start the fermentation.  However, the yeast is removed after the fermentation process, using a combination of three methods, which ensures the yeast doesn’t appear in the end product. 

 We consider that most consumers are likely to know that yeast is needed for the brewing process, and that carbon dioxide is a by-product of that process.  In our view, the ad is unlikely to mislead consumers to their detriment as to the nature of the product or how it is produced.  Given this, we will not be pursuing these complaints further.

 Although we’ve been unable to uphold these complaints, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns.

 Best regards,

Emily Henwood | Complaints Executive"

That response hasn't exactly come as a surprise. As Beernut was quick to point out, Inbev's defence would be that Stella doesn't contain yeast as it's filtered to death out.

Fair enough. We could all see it coming.

I'm still not satisfied with the advert. OK, I'll put my hand up to the accusation of pedantry, but their use of the word "contains" bothers me. I'd be happy with "brewed from" but as far as I can see Stella does not "contain"malted barley, maize or hops. I'm not a brewer, I don't really know how to word it in a properly technical way but Stella must rather contain proteins derived from malt and maize, and a smattering of acids from the hops. And good old alcohol and CO2 of course.

As you can see from the response email "The advertisers explained that the claim relates to the liquid produced at the end of the brewing process." Well, Mr In-Fucking-Bev, the liquid DOES NOT "contain" malted barley, maize or hops – I could bloody well see them if they were there and they would get stuck in my teeth if I were ever to lower my standards enough to consume the stuff.

I may well make another pedantry-inspired complaint.

Rant over.


The Beer Nut said...

It does not contain yeast. Nor is yeast an ingredient as it all gets filtered out. AFAIK they are perfectly within both advertising and food labelling regulations here.

Jeff Pickthall said...

I anticipated that comment with a para which I deleted. Perhaps I should have left it in.

It boils down to semantics about the use of the word "contain". Stella certainly "contain" water, but how can it be said to "contain" malted barley, maize and hops. Wouldn't that be like some bizarre version of Horlicks with green bits in?

Unknown said...

Indeed, there are compounds that originate from the yeast that appear in the beer in the same way as compounds that originate from the hops, malt and corn end up in the beer.

Do they also use no finnings or liquor treatment whatsoever? I doubt it.

The Beer Nut said...

Have you looked up the actual rules on what you have to list and what you don't -- proportions and so on? For obvious reasons I'm leaving aside the issue of listing these things out of honesty and respect for the customer. The regulating bodies and authorities tend not to care so much about that.

Jeff Pickthall said...

Life is too short for me to go looking up those kind of rules. I'd rather just get a complaint in and see what happens. I do suspect that "contains" is a weasil word that will prevent the complaint being upheld, nonetheless I think it's still worth having a pop.

The Beer Nut said...

Until we get mandatory listing of ingredients on drink (it's crazy that we don't) it's all weasel words when it comes to the macros: they all do the "contains" and the "made with" and the (worst IMO) "made from 100% high quality" disingenuity sooner or later.

I've put the work in as far as our regulations are concerned and it's all tragically above board. The shits.

Cooking Lager said...

Nothing wrong with maize, how many of you lot eat corn flakes?

Jeff Pickthall said...


I'd RATHER eat cornflakes.

StringersBeer said...

I don't believe there's a requirement (in UK) to list ingredients at all on beer (except allergens), so I suppose this might come down to whether this is deceptive, or misleading advertising. On the face of it, it looks as if they're trying to give the impression that they're putting in nothing but the 4. I can't believe they're managing without yeast. Or loads of other stuff for that matter.

The Beer Nut said...

They are not managing without the yeast. There just isn't any in your can of Stella.

StringersBeer said...

No indeed, Mr Beer Nut, but you're missing the point. It's not an ingredient listing. It's an advert.

It does seem strange relegating yeast to the status of a processing aid tho' doesn't it? Golly, what else could we make disappear like that?

BeerReviewsAndy said...

saw a huge billboard with this on the other day on the way out of the town, even our lass said that can't be right it doesn't say yeast...

im still not sure how they can sell stella black when its not black... i was expecting a black lager when i first saw the title of a blog post.

DJ said...

Do we know for sure at AB Inbev do use yeast? I wouldn't put it past them to use some kind of trickery.

Jeff Pickthall said...

Post now updated with Ad Standards response.