Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury has published a “final rule,” modernizing and updating the existing packaging regulations for alcoholic beverages to accommodate a shift in the way people are purchasing and consuming alcohol.
While bars and restaurants have seen a steep decline in sales thanks to state-mandated closures and reduced capacity, there has been a notable increase in the sales of bottled and canned beers, wines, hard seltzers, and other alcoholic beverages. The TTB has final oversight for the regulation – including composition, labeling, and advertising – of nearly all alcoholic beverages, and has addressed this shift in consumer behavior with these “final rule” updates.
Beer label regulations have been modernized, removing a number of antiquated and out-dated language rules. The following language can now be used on beer labels:
- “Strong” or other statements describing beer strength
Alcohol content regulations now permit beer labels to list both alcohol by volume and alcohol by weight. Currently, there are a number of states that have specific requirements regarding how alcohol content is listed, and this removes the need to produce two different labels for beers sold in different states.
Wine bottlers now have more flexibility on the use of vintage dates on their labels, as the final rule removes a previous restriction that did not allow imported wine to feature a vintage date. Now, wine bottlers are free to include the vintage date for imported wines, so long as they have the proper documentation to prove that the bottle of wine is entitled to be labeled with the vintage date. This change also applies to wine that is shipped in bulk without a vintage date – assuming the bottler has proper documentation, each individual bottle may be labeled with the appropriate vintage.
Additionally, “Citrus Wines” no longer need to be identified as such, and can be classified within the “Fruit Wines” class.
The “final rule” offers more flexibility on the placement of the label containing all required information for distilled spirit beverages. The new regulation states that the label may be placed on any side of the bottle, so long as it contains all mandatory information within the same field of vision (one side of the bottle where all of the information can be seen at the same time without turning the container).
The TTB requires the following information on the bottle:
- Brand name
- Class and type of distilled spirit
- Alcohol content
- Net contents (for containers that do not meet a standard of fill)
The TTB also updated the requirements for vodka, removing the requirement for vodka to be without “character, taste, aroma, or color” in order to be classified in the “Vodka” class. This opens up opportunities to innovate and create new vodka products.
Additionally, the “Tequila” class has been replaced with the broader “Agave Spirits” class. The “Agave Spirits” class now contains two categories: “Tequila” and “Mezcal.”
Finally, the TTB updated it’s tolerance to variation in alcohol content for distilled spirits, allowing plus or minus .03 percentage points above or below the labeled alcohol content. The TTB also removed limitations on the way distilled spirits producers may count distillations (such as “triple distilled”), as well as allowing (formerly prohibited) age statements for a number of classes and types of distilled spirits.
Find everything you need to know about TTB regulations here: https://www.ttb.gov/labeling/labeling-resources