Even as the various litigation questions get asked and answered to attract headlines, we are continuing to support many clients in each tier of the alcohol supply chain to deal with the changes brought by I-1183 and its implementation. The WSLCB and suppliers, distributors, and retailers are full-steam ahead on spirits privatization -- including ongoing evaluations and bidding on the privatizing state liquor store locations -- even as new rules and processes adopted or proposed by WSLCB are evolving. The logjam of spirits-related license applications is causing problems for the WSLCB, and now even causing problems for the federal TTB too concerning Washington retail applicants who are being told they must have certain federal permits at each of their locations. We are assisting clients to evaluate their business opportunities, pursue licenses and permits (or resist those that ought not to be required), and to comment on new rules and facilitate expedited approvals. Stay tuned...
The maker of the controversial Four Loko flavored malt beverages has agreed to label its products with disclosures stating how much alcohol they contain compared to "regular" beer.
Craft beer manufacturers and producers in other categories should watch related regulatory efforts with some caution. TTB has previously proposed that all alcoholic beverages contain a mandatory "Serving Facts" panel, though due in part to the efforts of various industry organizations, including those representing craft brewers, those proposals have been shelved -- for now, at least. The Four Loko case demonstrates that the FTC (which works closely with TTB in these issues) believes that relative alcohol disclosures are meaningful.
Among craft brewers' concerns may be whether their often popular "high hops, high alcohol" ales (some approaching or exceeding 10% ABV) might one day have to caution that they contain twice the alcohol of "regular" beers, or whether they might be required to disclose that the 22-oz. bottles so common to the craft beer category contain more than one serving. Small producers have also complained that requiring them to analyze content, print labels, and get label approval based on Serving Facts of each of their small lots of production will add costs, discourage product development, and favor large manufacturers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is joining the regulatory movement against products marketed as "energy" alcohol drinks. "Espresso stouts" and other craft beers and spirits are not the intended target of these sorts of things...but this is a movement even those producers should keep an eye on. The U.S. Government's food regulators—FDA (and USDA, too)—often like to take a heavy-handed approach to their role in alcoholic beverage products (when asked by TTB or pushed by state attorney generals or interest groups), because unlike every other food/beverage category, alcohol is the one segment where they can have an up-front role in preventing products from getting to market—the TTB's Certificate of Label Approval process.