In Cincinnati, Walmart is currently being sued for deceptive marketing techniques in regards to the supposed craft beer brand that it sells. The beer is made by Trouble Brewing, which is actually just Genesee Brewing Co., which is owned by Florida Ice and Farm Co., which is a food and beverage roll-up that produces some 2,000 products. Florida Ice and Farm owns brands like Imperial, Honey Brown, Magic Hat, Pyramid, Labatt (in the USA) and (yes) Genesee and Trouble Brewing.
Lead plaintiff Matthew Adam noted all of this in his lawsuit, as well as noted that Walmart stocks its craft beer next to other craft beers for sale in its stores, rather than with other mass produced beers, such as Budweiser, Miller or Coors products.
It seems to be a common sentiment of late: Consumers continue to feel that big companies are trying to swindle beer drinkers into buying beer that’s not actually craft beer (if you follow the Brewers Association definition) or that is somehow misleading in its marketing. Remember when that guy sued Blue Moon for deceptive marketing? Well, in yet another case, two people are now suing Kona Brewing Co. because their beer isn’t actually brewed in Hawaii. Kona is owned by the Craft Brew Alliance, which is one of the largest brewing operations in the United States, a rollup corporation of brands like Kona, Redhook, Widmer Brothers, Omission and others. As of January 2013, Anheuser-Busch InBev (a.k.a. Beer Voltron) has owned 32.2 percent of Craft Brew Alliance and is also the company’s distribution partner.
Two Californians, Sara Cilloni and Simone Zimmer, are suing the Craft Brew Alliance, saying the fifth-largest U.S. craft brewer makes its beer in New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington state but not Hawaii. From the Reuters article:
The plaintiffs said the alleged deception includes the use on labels of hula dancers, surfers, the Kilauea volcano, Waikiki beach, and other images and phrases associated with Hawaii, as well as beer names such as Big Wave Golden Ale, Castaway IPA, Fire Rock Pale Ale and Longboard Island Lager.
Despite this, nothing on the packaging makes clear where the beer is actually brewed, the complaint said.
“Consumers purchase items, and are willing to pay more for items, because they are from Hawaii,” the complaint said. “Craft Brew is well aware of this.”
Yeah, we guess that’s all pretty much true. Suing a big corporation for shady selling techniques seems to be an ongoing trend, which we’re quite enjoying, and it will be interesting to see how the TBB, court systems and big brewers begin to react (if at all).