Transparency is a hot topic in the food world these days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently finalized an update to the nutrition facts panel for packaged foods. The U.S. Senate last week advanced a bill addressing the labeling of genetically engineered foods, which the U.S. House is expected to vote on today. A federal court in California recently dismissed three putative class-action lawsuits against chocolate companies alleging that they misled consumers by not meeting their alleged duty to disclose on their labels certain information about how the chocolate was produced.
It should come as no surprise, then,—and falls in line with the broader transparency movement—that some big brewers in the beer industry are hopping on this transparency train.
The Beer Institute today announced a voluntary initiative that encourages its members to label their products with certain nutrition and quality information. The Brewer’s Voluntary Disclosure Initiative advises The Beer Institute members to include freshness dating and serving facts on their labels. The serving facts, similar to FDA’s nutrition facts panel, will disclose the serving size, alcohol by volume, calories, carbohydrates, fat, and protein of the product, in accordance with TTB Ruling 2013-2. The Initiative also encourages its members to disclose the ingredients of their products, either on the product label or in secondary material, such as case packaging, websites, or a QR code.
The Beer Institute’s Initiative also comes ahead of a spring 2017 compliance date for menu labeling in restaurants and other retail food establishments. Starting in May 2017, covered restaurants and other retail food establishments must provide calorie information on their menus and menu boards, and more complete nutrition information upon consumer request, for their standard menu items, including alcohol. Thus, requirements to provide nutrition information about alcohol were already queued up for the near future, a point that was not lost on The Beer Institute; they acknowledged that the Initiative “will be helpful to restaurants as they comply with menu labeling requirements that go into effect in May 2017.”
A number of the industry’s largest players (Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries, and Craft Brew Alliance) have already signed on to meet the Initiative’s goals. Those six groups account for over 80% of the beer produced and imported in the United States. Although The Beer Institute is aiming to have members comply with its Initiative by the end of 2020, consumers may see these changes in the beer aisle sooner rather than later.
As with other labeling efforts in the transparency movement, it will be interesting to see how this information affects consumers’ purchasing behaviors and consumption patterns. Will more consumers select beer based on its nutritional profile? Will craft brewers respond with nutritionally-friendly products and labels? Worth a good conversation over a good beer.