Alcoholic beverages may now include nutritional information and serving facts, thanks to a recent ruling by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). These labels may now specify serving size and calorie count, similar to the nutrition facts on food products. TTB has also changed its requirements to allow alcohol content to be featured on other labels instead of requiring it to appear on the brand label. These noteworthy changes suggest that the TTB may be leaning toward enabling producers to have more flexibility in labeling, while still providing consumers with more information about the products.

TTB Ruling 2013-2 gives beer, wine and distilled spirit companies the option to attach a label to their products that would specify serving size, servings per container, calorie count, and number of grams of carbohydrates, protein and/or fat per serving. Prior to the new ruling, producers were forbidden to include this information on beverage labels. At this point, providing nutritional information is strictly an option and is by no means a requirement. Producers of certain alcoholic beverages may find the addition of nutritional information more useful than others. Companies that want to emphasize the low calorie or carbohydrate content of their products, such as certain liquors, might benefit from adding this information to labels. Other producers may not want to draw attention to the caloric content of products or may simply not want to alter the design of their current label. 

If a company would like to add a nutrition label to its product, the TTB has provided examples of what a label might look like and what information it might include. As long as producers use Serving Facts labels like one of those provided by the TTB, they will not need to apply for a new certificate of label approval (COLA).

There is some concern that “voluntary now” will lead to “mandatory later”; this ruling only provides interim guidance while TTB considers regulations that would require serving facts statements on beverage labels. Mandatory labels would be costly and burdensome for many small wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Wine labels also are prime real estate for marketing information about their product’s taste, texture, or concept, and a required serving facts label would only take up more valuable design space. Also, many producers may not test their products for calorie, protein, fat, or carbohydrate content, and may have to incur significant expense to do so, especially for wines, where sugar and alcohol content may vary among vintages.

The following Serving Facts statement illustrates an acceptable panel display for a 750 milliliter bottle of wine containing 14 percent alcohol by volume.

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The Serving Facts label may include the percent by volume alcohol content declaration, as well as the declaration of alcohol in fluid ounces. Including this information as part of a Serving Facts statement will not suffice for compliance with existing regulations regarding placement of the mandatory alcoholic content statements, which may appear in more than one place. Last week the TTB also issued its final rule, permitting alcohol content information to appear on product labels other than on the brand label. This is designed to provide greater flexibility in labeling and will conform the TTB wine labeling requirements to the provisions of the World Wine Trade Group (WWTG) Agreement on Wine Labeling. This consistency in labeling requirements will allow winemakers to use the same label when shipping products to WWTG member countries.

Vanessa Wheeler