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Beer Industry Finally Agrees to Nutrition Labeling

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye
Leadership & Transparency
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Coming soon to your favorite distributor: nutrition labels on more brands of beer.

Everyone enjoys a nice cold beer now and then, or a bit more often here at TriplePundit. And that is especially the case with the proliferation of outstanding microbrews here in the U.S. and overseas. Many of these breweries are also serious about sustainability and their impact on the local environment and community. Some of the new beers on the scene are also quite creative, such as a collaboration between a famous chef and the head of a brewery that used food waste to concoct one such brew.

But for those who are health-conscious or making an effort to lose weight, the amount of calories and other nutritional information in that bottle or can of beer is often a mystery. Yes, a few brands disclose such information, but by and large most do not. Part of the reason is that alcohol is not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which is a division of the Department of the Treasury.

Despite the fact that U.S. state taxes on booze vary wildly, such levies in the U.S. are overall lower than in much of the world. Nevertheless, the federal government’s annual amount of revenues collected from the sale of alcoholic beverages is nothing to sneeze at. The feds do not want those collections affected in any way, and for years they had an ally with many in the industry.

Until 2013, the TTB even banned nutritional labeling; now the agency leaves that decision up to individual companies.

But after years of foot-dragging, change is on the way. The Beer Institute, one of the leading trade associations representing the $250 billion beer industry, announced a set of guidelines that it says will “promote consumer choice and transparency.”

Companies that agree to these self-imposed rules will print information on total calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat and alcohol beverage volume (ABV, or the exact percentage of alcohol). In addition, the Beer Institute asked its members to disclose a list of ingredients, which the company can either include on the container’s label or outer packaging. A date of production or “freshness date” should also be stamped on the label, the trade group suggested. Companies that are backing these labeling standards include Anheuser-Busch, HeinekenUSA and MillerCoors.

Several leading breweries have already agreed to such labeling, or at least said they would do so across the pond. Last year, AB InBev (which owns Anheuser-Busch), Carlsberg, Heineken and SAB Miller agreed to a voluntary standard in Europe. Watch for more wine producers and spirits manufacturers to eventually follow suit -- for example, Diageo, the maker of famous brands including Bailey’s, Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker and Ketel One.

Breweries, whether they belong to a large conglomerate or are independent and have more of a local fan following, have until 2020 to comply with the Beer Institute’s mandate  – that is, if they wish to do so.

Image credits: 1) Al E./Flickr; 2) courtesy of the Beer Institute

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Executive Editor, has written for Triple Pundit since 2010. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media, and the Editor in Chief of CR Magazine. His previous work can be found at The GuardianSustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye