The Beer Institute (BI) announced last week that is was implementing a “Brewer’s Voluntary Disclosure Initiative” intended to encourage its membership to begin disclosing nutritional information about its products on product labeling, packaging and on product websites. Under the initiative, participating brewers and importers will voluntarily provide product nutritional information under the heading, “Serving Facts,” which will include a list of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, alcohol by volume (ABV), serving size, and freshness dating. The Serving Facts labeling statement included on beer products is intended to be consistent with Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau (TTB) Ruling 2013-2.
BI member companies and industry leaders, such as Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken USA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, and North American Breweries, have agreed to implement the Brewer’s Voluntary Disclosure Initiative nutrition labeling requirements – together, these companies produce more than 81% of the volume of beer sold in the US. The measure is intended to provide consumers with more information about the nutritional content of beer. Indeed, according to a recent Harris Poll® survey on behalf of Nielsen, 72% of beer drinkers think nutritional labels provide important information when buying food and beverages.
In addition, other alcoholic beverage industry trade groups, including the Wine Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), have also come out in support of the BI nutritional labeling initiative. The Wine Institute noted in its statement of support that “alcohol can be a major source of calories for many Americans, and the absence of calorie labeling on cans and bottles has helped obscure that” fact. DISCUS issued a statement supporting the inclusion of ABV labeling information, noting that “many beer brands sold today contain more than one standard drink,” which is defined by US Dietary Guidelines as 12 ounces of beer (5 percent ABV), 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (40 percent ABV), and 5 ounces of wine (12 percent ABV). Further, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has also issued a press release supporting the nutrition labeling initiative. Thus, BI’s nutritional labeling initiative enjoys support from industry members and consumer groups alike.
However, craft brewers, which brew smaller volume, artisanal beers, are working separately with their industry representative, the Brewers Association, and with FDA and USDA, to develop a nutritional labeling plan for beer styles rather than for individual brands. The reason for this approach is that craft brewers, which are generally smaller companies with limited resources, often brew a variety of seasonal beers through-out the year that would require more resources to accurately label with nutritional information as opposed to labeling national brands produced in larger volume and sold year-round.
BI is calling for its members to implement the Brewer’s Voluntary Disclosure Initiative by the end of 2020. We are continuing to monitor BI’s nutritional labeling initiative.