As more companies – including businesses with and without experience producing alcoholic beverages – move to leverage their brands and brand equity across the beverage spectrum, regulators, trade associations and the companies themselves are focusing on ways to responsibly label, advertise, market and display these products to avoid consumer confusion and potential sales to minors.

Crossover alcohol products are generally categorized as alcohol beverages that use the products and intellectual property (e.g., brand names, logos) of a preexisting non-alcohol brand. While not legally defined (yet), such products include Dunkin’ Spiked Original Iced Coffee, Eggo Brunch in a Jar, Lipton Hard Iced Tea and SunnyD Vodka Seltzer, among others. As illustrated by these examples, products such as Lipton Hard Iced Tea leverage the non-alcoholic Lipton Iced Tea branding for a new product in the alcohol space.

As crossover alcohol products have become more prevalent across the market, state regulators have started taking notice and providing guidance to alcohol producers as to how to assure these products are not “false or misleading,” as defined by alcohol regulations, or tend to induce minors to drink the alcoholic product either through the products’ labels, packaging or store-display locations. The Commonwealth of Virginia, in particular, has taken the lead through the issuance of Circular Letter 23-01, which provides guidelines for alcohol producers as they develop these products. These guidelines focus on the following, among other issues:

  • Ensuring that the crossover product clearly indicates the type of alcohol it contains, with such information visible in at least three to six different locations.
  • Ensuring that the sizes of the alcohol references and warnings are sufficiently large and noticeable in comparison to other writings on the product label.
  • Ensuring that any and all changes to product labels, containers and secondary packaging clearly distinguish the crossover products from the original non-alcoholic products so as to prevent consumer confusion; such changes may involve the color palette, font type, imagery, placement of words, images and descriptions, or background elements.
  • Ensuring that secondary closures, such as foil lids, plastic wrapping, lip guards, stickers or other “child-proof” packaging, are present, to prevent accidental consumption by a minor.

Recently, a coalition including the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), FMI – The Food Industry Association, and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) (representing the three tiers of the industry: suppliers, wholesalers and retailers), issued a joint commitment related to the responsible marketing and merchandising of crossover alcohol products. Similar to Virginia’s guidance, the coalition is focused on assuring that these products are not confused for their non-alcohol counterparts and do not appeal to those under the legal purchase age, based on the appeal of the underlying brand. Accordingly, the coalition looks to alcohol producers to commit to responsible production, packaging and marketing of crossover alcohol products by:

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