Wine, beer, and spirits companies that want to label or advertise the nutritional content of their products have new guidance in an interim Ruling from the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).1 The 2013 Ruling, published at the end of May, permits companies to format the voluntary nutrition content using a Serving Facts statement on beer, wine, or distilled spirit labels and eliminates new label approval for existing labels that follow the Ruling requirements. At present, the TTB allows nutrient content information to appear voluntarily on labels and in advertisements in a statement of average analysis, but the TTB has yet to approve alcohol labels that include this information in a Serving Facts statement.
The TTB, which regulates alcohol labeling,2 has taken previous steps toward nutrition labeling of alcoholic beverages, first in 2004 with a Ruling that requires companies to include a statement of average analysis of a single serving’s calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat, if the product label or advertising voluntarily includes the calorie and carbohydrate content of the alcoholic beverage.3 Then, in 2007, the TTB published a Proposed Rule that, if made effective, will require companies to label the calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat per serving on all alcoholic beverage products, and to state the alcohol content as a percentage of alcohol by volume on products not currently required to bear such statements, such as wines with alcohol content of at least 7 percent and not more than 14 percent, and malt beverages except certain flavored ones that contain alcohol derived from added ingredients.4 The new TTB Ruling permits companies that want to use the proposed Serving Facts statement to do so, pending the completion of the 2007 Rule.
The 2013-2 Ruling
The Ruling does not preempt any other currently required label statements and a currently approved label that also complies with the Ruling does not need to obtain a new Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from the TTB. The Ruling allows statements of average analysis or Servings Facts statements to include any of the following nutritional information on labels and in advertising of malt products, wine and distilled spirits:
- Serving size, as specified by the Ruling by alcohol percent by volume5;
- Servings per container;
- Calories per serving;
- Grams of Carbohydrates per serving;
- Grams of Protein per serving;
- Grams of Fat per serving;
- Alcohol content as a percentage of alcohol by volume, as the regulations currently provide; and
- Fluid ounces of pure ethyl alcohol per serving, as long as it appears together with the percentage of alcohol by volume, because “many governmental and public health agencies provide consumption advice based on” this number.6
Wine Alcohol Content
Separately, TTB published a final rule in June that permits wine alcohol content to appear on other labels affixed to the wine container rather than requiring it appear on the brand label.7 A COLA is not required if the only change made to the labels appearing on a previously issued COLA is the moving of the alcohol content information to a label other than the brand label. This Final Rule goes into effect August 9, 2013.
Industry and Consumer Response
Diageo P.L.C., the world’s largest distiller and maker of brands such as Johnnie walker, Smirnoff, Jose Cuervo, and Tanqueray, has stated that it expects to take advantage of the new interim Ruling for nutritional labeling,8 although wine companies are reportedly less eager to add nutritional information, which, even if not on the brand (front) label, might alter the sleek look of the bottles. Although it has not issued a formal statement on the recent Ruling, the Wine Institute, which represents many California wineries, stated in a comment on the 2007 Proposed Rule, that serving facts nutritional information should be voluntary, and not mandatory.9
Although some beer companies are reportedly not expected to use the voluntary label information, perhaps not wanting consumers to count calories, the Beer Institute, which represents beer manufacturers, supported the current Ruling, because it provides flexibility in beer packaging and disclosure. The Beer Institute noted that “[i]t is absolutely critical to proper consumer awareness that drinkers know that there is a difference between a beer, a glass of wine and a cocktail” and that “[b]eer is the one alcohol beverage that is served in consistent and customary package sizes, with low alcohol volumes.”10
As always, statements that tend to create a misleading impression directly or indirectly are prohibited.11 TTB will take action with regard to labeling or advertising “that misleads the consumer about the nutritional value or health effects of alcohol beverages.”