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Home | News | Marketing | Stella's 1366 roots 'fantasy not fact'

Stella's 1366 roots 'fantasy not fact'

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Any suggestion that the recipe for Stella Artois was formed back in the mists of the 14th century has no grounding in established fact, InBev UK has told an advertising watchdog.

Despite this, the Stella brand-owner was today given the all-clear to continue screening a TV ad that stated the brew was made from the same four ingredients – maize, malted barley, hops and water – that it did in the year 1366.  

The Advertising Standards Authority received 94 complaints from viewers who claimed the ad was misleading because the established scientific view holds that maize originated in America, unknown to Europe until 1492. Others complained the ad implied Stella had been brewed in its current form since 1366.  

InBev stressed that the style of the ad, which featured fantastical images including oceans pouring off a flat world and mythical giants doing battle, was “clearly fantasy and unreal”. The brewer claimed it was not its intention to make factual claims about 14th century brewing practices.  

An ASA statement released today read: “InBev said there was a school of thought that supported the theory that maize was present in Europe as early as the 13th century, having been brought from Asia. They said that because there were conflicting views on the subject, no one theory could be favoured over another.” 

InBev said the reference to the year 1366 was only meant to emphasise the fact that beer – in one form or another - had been brewed in the firm’s Belgian home of Leuven since that date. The firm said: “The intention of the ad was to refer to that heritage in an entertaining and light-hearted way.” 

The ASA threw out the complaints against the ad, ruling that it was not misleading. The body accepted that the ad was intended as “light-hearted and fictional” and that viewers were unlikely to take the claims literally. The watchdog ruled that no further action was required.  

The makers of Stella have been up before the ASA before, the last time being September 2007 when InBev ran a press ad for the Artois group of beers that featured the bold bill line: “A family dedicated to brewing for six centuries”.  

In this case the watchdog deemed the ad misleading because no common ancestry could be established between the brewers of the beers over six centuries. The brewer was ordered to scrap the claim and never imply again that one family has been responsible for the Artois brand for 600 years.  

Stella Artois is generally accepted to have been born in 1926 as a Christmas beer. The brew owes its name to the Latin for ‘star’ and Sebastian Artois, who became master brewer at Leuven’s Den Horen brewery in 1708. Records show that the brewery itself dates from 1366.

While InBev has never stated that Stella itself dates as far back as the Dark Ages, the association with a centuries-old heritage has played a central part in the brand’s marketing in recent years as the firm has striven to shake off the brew’s associations with the worst excesses of Britain’s binge drinking problem.

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