Jury Sides Against Corona, Modelo in Major Lawsuit; Hard Seltzers Declared a Form of Beer
A Manhattan federal jury has decided that Corona Hard Seltzer and Modelo Ranch Water can be classified as forms of beer for distribution purposes.
The trial began in February 2021, when Grupo Modelo filed a lawsuit against Constellation Brands Inc. for selling hard seltzers in the U.S. under the”Corona” brand name.
Constellation’s distribution license allowed them only to distribute beers, leading to a spirited debate in court that attempted to pin down the hazy distinction between the two categories.
Similar to brands like Truly and White Claw, Corona Hard Seltzer is made from a fermented sugar base. Though these products may not be perceived as beers among the public, the process of brewing and fermenting flavored malt beverages is remarkably similar to that of beer minus the hoppy bite.
As a result, neither the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) nor the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has any definition for what constitutes a hard seltzer.
In court, Constellation successfully argued that hard seltzers fall under the vaguely defined “beer umbrella” even if consumers don’t perceive them as such.
Court documents state; “Defendants concede that the Corona Hard Seltzer Products do no possess the defining characteristic of ‘beer’ as ordinarily understood by the ‘average person on the street’ […] but nonetheless contends that these products are a (hops-free) ‘beer’, (malt-free) ‘malt beverage’, or ‘version’ of beer.”
Constellation’s victory is the latest in a string of lawsuits that have blitzed the hard seltzer market over the past few years.
Drinks like Bud Light Platinum Hard Seltzer, Travis Scott’s Cacti Agave Seltzer and Topo Chico Margarita Seltzer have all been named in class action suits alleging the misleading advertising of products that are essentially “flavored beers.”
Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch was even forced to pay out $6,000,000 on behalf of its popular Lime-A-Rita line of mixed drinks.
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