Personally, I want to know as much as I can about any product I’m sticking in my mouth. Picture me as that annoying grocery store customer holding that box or bottle way too close to my face, inspecting the nutritional and serving facts, blocking the way to the rest of your busy life. Most food and beverages you buy in a store are required by law to describe ingredient and serving information. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates most consumer food and beverages and requires such descriptive labeling, yet alcohol is regulated by the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), formerly the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and that includes approving labels. The TTB hasn’t mandated those ingredient labels, but there has been some pushing from a variety of groups.
Way back in 2013, the TTB politely announced brewers could start labeling and advertising products with ingredient information, if they wanted to. The TTB even has a nice Frequently Asked Questions section on the optional Alcohol Facts Statements for alcohol and beer labels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a Nutrition Facts Label Industry Resources web page to help businesses comply with requirements. The Beer Institute, which is a beer maker trade association that includes all brewers, not just craft, wants brewers to voluntarily disclose information about their beer — product ingredients, alcohol by volume and freshness. It’s called the Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative, and the Beer Institute has released three videos to help convince you. The major beer makers agreed in 2016 to voluntarily disclose ingredients facts on their products by 2020.
In 2014, MillerCoors led all alcohol companies by voluntarily placing a nutritional label on its Miller64 brand and other brands have followed.
I can understand some hesitancy from craft brewers — like the cost of finding these ingredient numbers, the challenge of doing that with so many seasonal brands, getting labels re-approved and showcasing high calorie counts to customers. I can also imagine why some might think those giant transnational beer companies supporting this (like AB InBev and Heineken) might very well want this type of information provided because they feel it gives them an advantage. It will be a cost burden for small breweries and a good majority of these global brands are low calorie and low ABV options, compared to craft beer options.
- Last week, Bud Light announced it would be the first brand to include some ingredient and serving facts in the United States with new secondary packaging that will hit stores in February. Behold.
From the press release:
“While ingredient labels are not required, consumers deserve to know more about their beer. We brew Bud Light with the finest ingredients and we’re happy to proudly display them on our packaging,” said Andy Goeler, VP of Marketing, Bud Light. “When people walk through a store, they are used to seeing ingredient labels on products in every aisle, except for the beer, wine and spirits aisle. As the lead brand in the category, we believe increasing on-pack transparency will benefit the entire beer category and provide our consumers with the information they expect to see.”
In addition to listing the ingredients, Bud Light’s packaging will also include: serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates, sugars and protein.
I reached out to the Brewers Association to get its opinion on the subject. We’ll update this article once we hear back from them. But I like ingredient stats on the things I buy and eat, so I would be interested in seeing some craft brewers experiment with what it takes to provide serving info on their brands and share that with their customers.